PORTLAND, Ore. — ODOT is staffing up and warning drivers to be prepared to be stuck in their cars for hours during the solar eclipse.
Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton says the eclipse will cause “the biggest traffic event in Oregon history” on August 21.
State emergency management officials are estimating one million people from out of state are coming to Oregon to watch the eclipse. More rental cars and RVs will be added to our highways, not to mention rural single-lane roads to and from campsites.
ODOT is particularly worried about the highways to the Oregon Coast. The agency is halting any maintenance and construction in the days leading up to the eclipse just to keep roads clear. They will be closing truck weigh stations so ambulances, police or fire trucks can have room to park there in case of emergency. ODOT is even warning trucking companies of delayed deliveries until things calm down.
“One of the things that we’re doing is tracking rumors, and we’re hearing a rumor on Twitter that a lot of people from Seattle are going to be coming down very, very early on Monday morning of the eclipse and that’s going to complicate the morning commute in the city of Portland,” said Hamilton.
ODOT says the eclipse traffic could be similar to the snowstorm of January, 2017. People left work early when flakes started to fall, only to sit in gridlock for hours, running out of gas.
Even just getting to work that morning could take much longer.
“It could be delays that last for hours and hours,” Hamilton said. “People need to plan ahead and be ready for this.”
Portland International Airport says this August is gearing up to the busiest month in PDX history. In the days surrounding the solar eclipse next month, PDX says airlines are not offering extra flights, but the ones they always have, are booked. They’ll be staffing up volunteers inside the airport to help those new to Oregon, even handing out the special eclipse glasses you’ll need. Local Budget and Avis Rental Car locations tell KGW they’re booked solid too.
ODOT advises drivers to print out a paper map of where you’re going. Don’t rely on your cell service for mapping, in case cell service is overloaded.
According to NASA and other experts, the Portland metro area will see 94 to 99 percent of the eclipse, so if you’re staying home, just look up starting around 9 a.m. that morning.
Hamilton says another big concern is drivers stopping their cars to look up at the eclipse.