Pacific Northwest towns prepping for major traffic snarls during eclipse
From Oregon to South Carolina, viewing the eclipse on Aug. 21 will be quite popular. In fact, thousands of people are traveling south on I-5 to the Beaver State in the days before.
It will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 100 years. Some people across the country will get a rare view of the eclipse — where the sun will be in total darkness — called the “path of totality.”
“We are expecting 1 million people on August 21,” said Oregon State Department of Transportation’s Dave Thompson. “That’s a lot of folks, a lot of cars and if people treat this like a Game Day, they are not going to have a good experience.”
“We hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst,” he said. “And the worst is a wildfire on a really hot day with a long line of cars; that is my worst nightmare.”
Planning for the eclipse
Sunmeit Mayben is the head of the Museum at Warm Springs Native American Reservation, near Madras, Oregon. It’s the first place where America will see total darkness. They have essentially closed the reservation down out of security concerns. Except for one VIP camping permit which will set you back $80,000.
“One of the big reasons people are flooding to the Madras area is that we have a mountain that will be shadowed first and that will give people a different spectacle,” Mayben said. “From my understanding, Mount Jefferson will go dark first.”
The $80,000 VIP camping permit is a first for the tribe. Under the permit, seven people will be helicoptered into the campsite on top of Mount Jefferson, the second-highest peak in Oregon.
Locals welcome the tourists, but they have been prepping for the worst for the last two years.
“For us locals, [we need to] make sure we are stocked up on everything we need like medications so you don’t run out and making sure we are stocked up on water,” Mayben said. “The question is even if I get to town, will there be anything to purchase and even after the fact? We don’t know how long it’s going to take to get replenished.”
Bigger cities like Portland and Salem will see more traffic but the smaller towns, which is where a lot of people are headed, will be hit pretty hard. Think of the eclipse tourism at Burning Man or Woodstock — it’s a four-day event with little to no services.
Temporary cellphone towers have been setup to handle the data surge, ATMs will likely run out of money so towns are urging people to travel with cash, and porta-potties have been trucked in from everywhere.
“We laughed about a train of porta-potties coming over the mountain to get to Central Oregon,” Mayben said.
If you are headed to Oregon, expect traffic to be heavy on I-5 southbound out of Olympia, pack water and plan for extra delays for about four days near Portland.
Some other tips:
- Cool eclipse glasses: Don’t wear them while driving, you will get a ticket.
- Shop near home: Bring supplies with you. Stores are likely to run out of things.
- Pack extra water.
- An app will not filter out UV light, your phone will not work for this activity.
- It’s illegal to stand in the road and watch the eclipse (Not smart and illegal).