Traveling to See Next Month's Solar Eclipse? You're Not Alone

Michael Zeiler of predicts from 1.8 million to 7.4 million Americans will travel to see it. There are 12.25 million people who already live in the path of the Aug. 21 event.

How many Americans will stop working on Aug. 21, or take the day off, to watch that day's total solar eclipse? Perhaps as many as 7.4 million people will travel to a location along the path of totality, which will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, writes Michael Zeiler of

His prediction is that from 1.8 million to 7.4 million Americans will travel to see it, causing "predictable traffic congestion," in his words: "Imagine 20 Woodstock festivals occurring simultaneously across the nation. Large numbers of visitors will overwhelm lodging and other resources in the path of totality. There is a real danger during the two minutes of totality that traffic still on the road will pull over at unsafe locations with distracted drivers behind them."

There are 12.25 million people who already live in the path, according to Zeiler, who writes that, despite the expected congestion, "we urge you to make every effort to travel to a spot inside the path of totality. You will be stunned at the apparition of the Sun's corona, the majestic light show in the sky, and the full sensory experience of totality. You will remember this sight for the rest your life and will never regret the effort to see totality."

This will be the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to cross the entire continental United States, according to NASA, which has created a website dedicated to the celestial event and offers help in planning and hosting your own eclipse party.

Zeiler's advice for viewing it enjoyably includes these tips:

  • Arrive at your viewing location at least one (and preferably two) days in advance. Avoid the areas of peak congestion as shown on his site's maps.
  • If you have not yet secured lodging, plan to camp or take an RV.
  • If you have the freedom to travel long distances, the western states from Oregon to Nebraska offer better odds of clear skies and less congestion.
  • Be as self-sufficient as possible. Keep your gas tank topped. Bring water, food, and toilet paper. Don't forget sunscreen and hats.
  • If you absolutely must stay in touch with family or work, rent a satellite phone. Cell phone systems may be overwhelmed.
  • Get eclipse glasses now before shortages in August. They are needed to watch the partial stages of eclipse but you can view totality directly with your eyes. Learn how to safely view the eclipse.
  • Get good eclipse maps of the path. These will be invaluable if you need to relocate and will make a great souvenir of the event.
  • Watch the weather report on your local TV station in the days before the eclipse. Broadcast meteorologists will be giving eclipse weather forecasts. Try to relocate to another area if your target destination has a poor weather prospect.
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