The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is preparing for hundreds of thousands of people coming to the region next month for prime viewing of the total solar eclipse.
The rare eclipse on August 21 is crossing the United States from coast to coast and the Hopkinsville area happens to be at the point of greatest eclipse, where totality is two-minutes and 40-seconds.
KYTC District 1 and 2 spokesman Keith Todd said there's not much to compare the once-in-a-lifetime event to in terms of planning for what the region will look like.
“So we started looking for things out there that might similar to this in terms of a mass movement of people and really about the only thing we found was going back to 1969 to Woodstock in New York.”
The festival drew an estimated 400,000 people, a number close to the anticipated eclipse turnout in the region. Todd said KYTC is learning lessons from Woodstock, like addressing traffic issues and food and water concerns.
"So we started looking at some of the traffic issues. Of course, they ran out of food within a day or so. People were raiding apple orchards to get food. That was in the days, pretty much, pre-bottled water days. So, water was a big item. And then, you had people who were parking their cars in the middle of the New York state thru-way and walking 30 miles to get to this site."
Todd said KYTC isn't anticipating an issue like that since in Kentucky the eclipse totality path is primarily along the I-24 corridor - and stretches east to Bowling Green. He said he has been working with emergency management and state police on how to manage the influx of people.
One idea, he said, is to implement a NASCAR-style traffic control system in heavily congested areas. “Where you put cones down the middle of the interstate and tell everybody if you’re going to exit keep right and if you’re thru traffic, keep left," he said. But even that presents a challenge as people will be coming to and going from different places.
“Until we get down to the last few days it’s really still going to be difficult to get a handle on what kind of issues we’re going to be facing,” he said.
A total solar eclipse occurred in Oregon in 1979. Todd reached out to their transportation people to see if anyone remembers what it was like. “We realized that in 1979 there was no internet, there was no social media to drive interest in the event."
Todd said there is no scientific data as to how many people will actually come to the region, but has talked to a person bringing two tour buses and a caravan of 50 cars. He said a church group is bringing a tour bus and 25 or 30 cars and is aware of school groups from Louisville and Lexington coming for field trips.
As of Tuesday, Todd said, Hopkinsville expecting people from 16 countries and 36 states. "And that to me is one of the best indicators of how many people are coming at us.”