We are counting down to Monday August 21, at 10:16 a.m. when the Pacific Northwest will experience a solar eclipse. Portions of Oregon and Idaho will experience a two minute total eclipse in an area called the path of totality. However, a partial eclipse will be visible across the entire PNW.
Whether or not you are anxiously awaiting the eclipse, there is great potential that you will be affected by the traffic. The best way to imagine this is to think of a major rock festival taking place in Oregon and Idaho with approximately one million concertgoers. Now imagine all of these concertgoers leaving at the same time and wanting to go home through the state of Washington.
A normal trip along the freeway to drop kids off at daycare or to go to lunch may take you significantly longer. This is especially true for the counties near the Washington border. Worst case scenario could be traffic gridlock on some of our major routes in and out of Oregon and Idaho.
The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is working with our partners Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to prepare for the traffic impact. You will notice extra troopers working the roads Saturday August 19, to Tuesday August 22, in order to keep you safe and to clear collisions as quickly as possible. The WSP will also work with our local first responder partners to prepare for the traffic congestion.
“I ask Washingtonians traveling south to Oregon or east to Idaho to witness the solar eclipse to not forget to pack their patience,” says WSP Chief John Batiste. “Also remember, to carry your courtesy with you along with other provisions needed to arrive at your destination safe and sound.”
Here are a few tips for motorists:
- Do NOT pull over onto the shoulder to watch the eclipse, because it puts yourself and other drivers at risk and impedes emergency responders who need to use the shoulder during traffic congestion.
- Be extra vigilant for pedestrians and cars parked illegally on side of the roads. People may be randomly parking and walking alongside the roadside in the hours around the eclipse to get the best view.
- Do NOT try to take pictures or video of the eclipse while driving – it’s unsafe and violates Washington’s new distracted driving law.
- Do NOT drive with eclipse glasses on, they are too dark for driving.
- Even if you’re not traveling to, or viewing the eclipse, your commute may still be affected so plan for congestion the weekend before the event and especially all day Monday August 21.
- Remain alert in stop and go traffic – allow a safe following distance, it’s easy to rear-end someone and then further snarl traffic.
- Obey all emergency responder’s orders and signs such as detours and evacuations.
- Pack plenty of provisions.
The WSP and WSDOT collaborated on a video to help you prepare for the event.