The American Eclipse Traffic Jam???

Unprecedented

The Total Solar Eclipse of Monday, August 21, 2017 is event is literally UNPRECEDENTED.  The last US eclipse was decades ago, in 1979, but that just nicked the corner of the Pacific Northwest.  An entire generation has been born and come of age without ever experiencing the awesome spectacle of a total eclipse of the Sun.  Further, the last coast-to-coast eclipse was in 1918, nearly a century ago.

Everyone should reflect on the fact that this is the first cross-country total solar eclipse since the advent of the automobile and the creation of the interstate freeway system.

This unprecedented eclipse is an excellent opportunity to observe one of the true natural wonders of this world.  It’s an unsurpassed occasion for science and nature education.  But most importantly, it can be a defining moment in American history, with the potential to impress an entire generation of young Americans with the awe and wonder of the sky’s most astounding spectacle.

With an entire century of frequent USA eclipses ahead, this first eclipse in 2017 has the potential to inspire American youth toward careers in science and technology, the STEM fields.

But with short time yet remaining, the media has STILL failed to meaningfully report on this upcoming rare spectacle in the sky.  There has been nothing in the news, nothing in the travel literature, and nothing in the popular science programming.  Since so few people today appreciate the significance of a total eclipse of the Sun, one might wonder if the media has any plans at all to report on the eclipse.

Advance planning is essential for MILLIONS of Americans to plan their eclipse observing experience.  There might be at least three different scenarios as to how this might play out:

Scenario 1: The media begins covering the story no later than a year in advance, by the Summer of 2016.  This allows ample time for excitement to build among Americans, who will include the eclipse in their 2017 vacation plans.  It also allows local event planning for towns along the eclipse path, which include extra overnight accommodations for the crowds that will pour into their communities.  Schools capitalize on this rare opportunity to educate their students, and classes are cancelled on Eclipse Day in the twelve eclipse states, to enable families to participate together.

Scenario 2: The media offers no advance eclipse coverage at all.  The eclipse is only reported after the fact in local media for towns along the path, and only as a minor blurb following the headlines in other news forecasts around the USA, maybe an anecdote in the weather report.  This unfortunate outcome only allows minimal participation in this awesome spectacle.  The powers-that-be realize only too late that a golden opportunity has been squandered, and maybe the next eclipse in 2024 will receive better reporting.

Scenario 3: The worst-case scenario… the media wakes up from its eclipse slumber at the “eleventh hour” and only hypes the eclipse during the short time remaining in the “news cycles” immediately leading up to the event, as the big day approaches.  Millions of heretofore uninformed Americans suddenly realize the significance of the eclipse and make hasty plans to observe this event, with no advance preparation.

* * * * *

There’s no way to predict what WILL happen on Eclipse Day, 2017.  But unless the word spreads and the American populace becomes informed well in advance, what CAN happen is a “Category 5” crowd event from coast to coast.

I was discussing the eclipse with a friend who mentioned that he’d “just drive down there that day.”   Suppose a LOT of people around the USA think that same way at the same time?  Imagine a great herd of motorists WITH NO PLANS AND NO RESERVATIONS that roll out of bed on the morning of Monday, August 21, 2017 and hit the interstates, all making impromptu, last-minute attempt to see the eclipse.

Imagine the Woodstock-level, cross-continental traffic jams of epic proportions that might ensue as MILLIONS of people from big cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Orlando, and Washington DC discover that they are within only 8 hours away from the eclipse path, and get in their cars at the same time and pour onto every freeway heading toward the eclipse path!

This reportedly happened in 1991 when there was a total solar eclipse in Baja California.  On the day of the eclipse, the Mexican authorities reportedly turned away hordes of American eclipse tourists at the border.  Imagine the same sort of thing on the American interstate system, with no border guards to turn people away.

Such a scenario could create all manner of logistical problems, if eclipse traffic clogs the roads leading toward the eclipse path.  Emergency vehicles are inhibited, as police, fire and ambulances have difficulty making it past the lines of cars.  A homeland security situation might come to pass if terrorists seek to exploit any eclipse chaos.

Unless prospective domestic “eclipse chasers” plan ahead, the big story that day might not be the eclipse itself, but instead sad stories of people who missed the eclipse due to poor planning.

Everyone needs to be ready!

We want as many people as possible to view this rare and glorious eclipse!  But we all need to promote the idea that everyone needs to be well-prepared and organized.

Please visit our Be Prepared! page.

 

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