A total solar eclipse will be visible over 300 miles of Missouri on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, making the state a prime draw for up to 1.2 million visitors.
Just before noon CDT that day, the moon’s shadow will begin to block sunlight. Around 1 pm, the areas that will experience a total eclipse will reach maximum darkness for up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The moon exits the sunlight’s path completely around 2:30 pm.
MoDOT expects more than a million visitors to begin trickling into Missouri over the course of several days. We are not certain of how the exit will go. In other countries where eclipses took place recently, hours-long gridlock followed the celestial event.
Making the weekend more interesting from a traffic standpoint is the fact that many college students will be on the way back to campus. Traffic counts on interstates and major routes increase significantly during the third weekend of August in a normal year. This year, co-eds will have a lot more company in the lanes.
MoDOT expects a four-day traffic event. We are already planning to respond very much like the way we plan for a severe winter storm – with emergency operations and communications plans at the ready. State, county local and civic resources will link into the State Emergency Management Agency’s incident response center so all of Missouri’s resources can coordinate quick responses to any need.
MoDOT Motor Carrier Services’ office in Jefferson City will be closed August 21so that parking can be available for the 50,000 people expected to view the eclipse from the State Capitol Complex. If you plan to operate in Missouri or another state that will experience totality, we encourage you to plan where you want to be that afternoon and get there several hours early. Be ready for unusual possibilities. Here are a few things CMV drivers might consider:
- Carry extra water, food, medication and comfort items in case extreme delays occur.
- Expect communications issues. Demands on cell phone and other networks will increase and could interfere with service.
- Take extra care during pre-trip inspections. You don’t want tire, engine or other issues to worsen an already tense traffic situation.
- Fuel up – top off well before levels get low.
- Pack patience. Other vehicle drivers are likely to be extra-distracted.
- Plan to cover fewer miles in Missouri from Aug. 18 to Aug 22. In addition to eclipse traffic, thousands of Missouri students will return to campus that weekend. Many colleges begin classes onAug. 21.
- Headlights on, please – Eclipses create dusk and dawn-like conditions in the middle of the day. Animals – and humans – might react strangely in the changing light.
- MOSTIMPORTANTLY – enjoy the experience. We’re told viewing a total eclipse is an experience like no other. Even partial eclipses stick in the memory. Take some time to bask in the wonder of nature and space. It’s good for you.
If you’re disappointed to travel in other states during this time, it might help to know that at least a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the U.S. Be sure to obtain a pair of certified eclipse safety glasses or learn how to use the pin-dot paper or other method to track the moon’s travel across the sun. Visit www.modot.org/Eclipse for links to NASA and Missouri’s eclipse information.