CHARLESTON (WCBD) – The total solar eclipse will hit South Carolina on Aug. 21, creating a traffic nightmare for the Lowcountry as thousands of tourists flock to the state for the astronomical event.
Officials predict eclipse traffic will trickle in as early as this Friday and pick-up throughout the weekend. Plans for the arrival of the eclipse started months ago, including a campaign on social media from the South Carolina Highway Patrol to spread awareness about how to stay safe among the crowds.
Sgt. Bob Beres, the South Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman, said a majority of the back-ups will occur on interstate 26 and U.S. 17 over the coming days.
“We don’t have anything to compare to it because we never have had an eclipse in this state of this magnitude. But we’re estimating somewhere between 600,000 and 2 million people traveling here,” said Beres.
Aside from planning around congestion on the highways and roads, Beres said he wants to warn unsuspecting drivers of the expected bad traffic and said nobody should attempt to watch the eclipse from the road. Although he said it sounds intuitive, it is imperative to park in a safe spot, and of course, forgo wearing protective eclipse eyewear while driving.
“Figure out where you’re going to park, where you are going to watch it, and you have to give yourself extra time because of all the traffic you’re going to see,” said Beres.
One unknown is the weather forecast for next week, and without clear skies, travelers might decide to stay home or cancel eclipse plans. If it rains, the blackout will be difficult to see. The highly anticipated moment will last about two minutes in South Carolina, as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and blocks the sun’s light.
Still, travelers can be assured more state police and first responders will be supervising Charleston and major stretches of I-26, and U.S. 17, which are expected to swell with traffic. In the end, there is nothing that can prevent heavy traffic, and drivers are told to add extra minutes to their commutes, plus keep cars fueled.
“I would allow plenty of extra time getting to work and coming home on Monday,” said Beres.