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Early-bird eclipse viewers jam Oregon highways

Eclipse viewers backed up traffic on State Highway 26 near Prineville, Ore., for 15 miles on Thursday, reported Oregon State Police.
Eclipse viewers backed up traffic on State Highway 26 near Prineville, Ore., for 15 miles on Thursday, reported Oregon State Police. Oregon State Police

Oregon State Police are warning motorists that traffic’s already backing up on the state’s highways in advance of a total solar eclipse Monday.

Troopers posted a photo Thursday on Twitter of a solid line of cars backed up 15 miles on State Highway 26 near Prineville in central Oregon.

Officials in the town of 10,000 tell The Oregonian they expect up to 10,000 vehicles to roll through town en route to the Symbiosis Gathering, a five-day mustic festival that runs through the eclipse.

On Wednesday, state police posted a similar photo reporting a 30-mile-long backup on the same highway.

The roughly 70-mile-wide path of totality – where the moon will block 100 percent of the sun – stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Visitors are expected to pour into those states seeking a prize view of the total eclipse, the first visible in the U.S. since 1979. The next total solar eclipse in the United States won’t be until 2024.

In Oregon, where the totality begins at 10:16 a.m. at Depoe Bay, officials have ordered extra-wide-load trucks off the highways through Tuesday to ease congestion. The state has been preparing for an estimated 1 million visitors during the eclipse. Some have been predicting food and gasoline shortages.

In response, some Oregon residents are posting satiric Twitter messages warning potential visitors that the eclipse has been canceled.

The Federal Highway Administration has asked states to suspend all road construction Monday to ease the flow of traffic. FHWA also is changing interstate dynamic message boards nationwide: A total solar eclipse is coming. The sky will get dark. The sun will appear to go away in the middle of the day. Do not slam on your brakes. Do not be afraid.

"We don't really know exactly how many might be out there driving around … but we know that there will likely be several million," said Martin Knopp, associate administrator for operations at FHWA.

Everyone is excited about the Solar Eclipse that is happening on Aug. 21, so here are some answers to those questions that you want to ask, but are too embarrassed to.

The Washington Post contributed to this story.

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