Heavy traffic, full hotels expected for cities near total solar eclipse

Published: Aug. 6, 2017 at 10:08 PM EDT
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By: Brittany Bedi | WCTV Eyewitness News

August 6, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A rare solar eclipse will darken the sky on August 21. Though the total eclipse will last only a couple of minutes, the rare event is generating excitement through the country.

Areas of North Florida and South Georgia will be able to see a partial eclipse. This means that the moon will be between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow blocking part of the sun.

The path of the total solar eclipse- where the moon completely blocks the sun- will be visible from parts of Oregon to South Carolina.

The rare cross-country eclipse is prompting people to pack their bags and travel to see it. People are planning to hit the road to try to get a glimpse of it.

The eclipse will happen on a Monday. Some are using the eclipse as an opportunity for a weekend trip.

W.D. Williams is the field manager for AAA Tallahassee. Williams compares the anticipated crowds to several Woodstock festivals happening across the country at once.

Many clients at AAA Tallahassee are heading to popular destinations like Nashville, Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina.

"We have a lot of people calling us and contacting us asking for routings to drive to those areas and we have people asking for hotels," said Williams.

For people in North Florida and South Georgia, that means traveling north via I-75 and I-95. These interstates are expected to be busier on August 19 through 21.

Eren Ozguven is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

"These are already congested roadways. I think the problem is how to handle it at the local level,” said Ozguven. “As of now, cities and probably state departments of transportation are working together to have a plan."

Ozguven believes the interstates can handle the congestion, but traffic issues could trickle down to cities within the eclipse’s path of totality.

"Many cities that have this type of traffic, they are ready for this type of event. It's all about preparedness and planning," said Ozguven.

Cities will be preparing for the eclipse. Travel agencies like AAA say that it’s important for travelers to make their own preparations.

"Treat it like you would any other major event, almost like a Superbowl,” said Williams. “Plan ahead, expect that there's going to be heavy traffic, and expect that hotels are going to be full and that there's going to be congestion."

The next solar eclipse visible in the continental US will be in 2023. The 2023 eclipse’s path of totality will range from California to Florida.