As many as a million visitors are expected in Oregon and 500,000 in Idaho later this month as a solar eclipse sweeps across the country on August 21, the first such event to take place in the continental U.S. since 1979. The eclipse will make landfall between Lincoln City and Newport, Oregon at 10:15 a.m., then head east cutting a swath across the entire country to South Carolina. Many will drive to a point along the eclipse’s “path of totality”—an area that will be shrouded in total darkness for about two minutes.
What to Expect
Emergency planners are expecting huge crowds as tourists flock to Oregon and Idaho to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. The eclipse is taking place during the heart of the summer travel and fire season so resources may be stretched thin. The state of Oregon will even have the National Guard provide support to local and state agencies that may need some extra help. Oregon cities under the path of totality include Lincoln City, Salem, Corvallis, Madras, Prineville, John Day, and Ontario. In Idaho, the path of totality includes Weiser, Cascade, Idaho Falls, Rexburg, and Stanley, Idaho. A partial eclipse will be visible across a much wider path. For example, Portland will see 99% of totality, and Grants Pass will see 93% of totality.
Eclipse chasers along with normal heavier summer traffic may clog highways, impacting residents and tourists alike.
The path of totality stretches across rural parts of Oregon and Idaho, many of which can only be accessed by two-lane highways. If you’re out on the road, plan on bumper-to-bumper traffic at times.
Experts are projecting extreme traffic conditions that may rival a severe winter weather event. Emergency responders warn that they might not be able to reach everyone who needs assistance in a timely manner. So it’s important for travelers to be prepared in case they get stranded.
Prepare for possible supply shortages. Some communities may experience food, water and fuel shortages. Keep your fuel tank as full as possible, and don’t let it fall below about half a tank. Stock up on food and water for you and your passengers, including pets. Be sure to have enough drinking water and non-perishable food for travelers and pets to last at least a couple of days in case you get stranded.
Pack an emergency kit. Every vehicle should be equipped with a well-stocked emergency kit that includes a mobile phone car charger or external battery, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, a basic toolkit with tire pressure gauge and adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables and emergency flares or reflectors. As mentioned above, bring water and snacks for all travelers and pets.
Schedule a checkup for your car beforehand. Take your vehicle to a trusted AAA repair facility to perform any needed maintenance before heading out. Oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.
Check your car battery before hitting the road. Summer heat is the number one cause of battery failure and reduced battery life. Get your electrical charging system tested at the same time as the battery. A faulty alternator is one of the most common causes of battery failure. Most batteries have a three- to five-year service life. If your battery is nearing the end of its life cycle, have it tested by the AAA Mobile Battery Service. If you need a new battery, you can buy one and have it installed on the spot. We’ll even take away your old one. Visit AAA.com/Battery.
Leave early, expect delays. Even under the best circumstances, Oregon’s roadways will be extremely busy around the eclipse. Factor in a crash and drivers could experience gridlock for hours. If at all possible, depart for your eclipse viewing spot a couple of days early and plan to stay an extra day or two. Many hotels and campsites have been booked up for months if not years, but you may still be able to stay with friends or find a spot to park a trailer or RV.
Watch the eclipse safely. The only safe way to look directly at the eclipse is to wear special eclipse glasses that are verified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.