It seems as if no major event of sports or weather is complete without a traffic jam, so a hugely anticipated, spectacularly hyped, once-in-a-century occurrence like Monday’s eclipse could provide a doozy.
After all, there’s already near-gridlock around metro Atlanta 10 times a week just from the comings and goings of a typical work day. And this coast-to-coast, celestial happening potentially engages the interest of every single person who is awake.
There are about 6.9 million drivers in Georgia. There are more than 14 million in Florida.
Of course, it’s impossible to know how many of those people will grab their keys and look for a path to view the vaunted totality. We could have hundreds of thousands of people heading to the northeast corner of Georgia – or heading through it on their way to South Carolina or Tennessee.
Of course, it’s also possible that everyone will wake up Monday and be so tired of the eclipse talk that they go to the library and get a book. Or they may look up to see overcast skies and decide to go bowling.
But a lot of people will already be there: Hotels have been booked for a while. Many people seem inclined to use the eclipse as an astronomical excuse for a three-day weekend.
And with any chance of good weather, expectations are for pretty crowded roads – roads that are not designed for massive use.
The main artery to the northeast is I-85, for example, which has six lanes in each direction close to Atlanta and then narrows to two lanes in each direction north of I-985 – all the way into South Carolina.
Most of the local roads have but one lane each way. And once you get into a town, well, good luck getting out.
The town of Dillard, for example, with a population of 330 or so, and the nearby towns of Rabun Gap and Clayton are in the narrow path of totality that runs from Oregon to South Carolina.
Dillard has been planning a festival which, by itself, is likely to draw an awful lot of folks. And the city says they have parking for 325 vehicles. So...
Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant reported on Friday that roads in the areas were already crowded.
“It is a challenge,” he was told by a Georgia State Patrol officer. “I mean, you hear numbers from 10,000, 53,000 to more. The questions are asked, ‘What are you going to do?’”
Doug Turnbull at WSB writes that there is express toll lane construction on I-85 starting at exit 111. Although the DOT said it will suspend highway work during the eclipse, the construction has narrowed lanes and eliminated shoulders.
That could mean worse delays, he said.
“We also expect very heavy traffic on Hwy. 515 (after I-575 ends) through Pickens County, Hwy. 365 (after I-985 ends) through Habersham, and Hwy. 115 (after GA-400 ends) in Lumpkin County,” Turnbull wrote.
He compared the potential jam to “Snow-pocalypse” in 2014
The eclipse starts about 1 p.m. and lasts for about three hours. Depending where you are, the peak will be around 2:30 or a few minutes after. And of course, remember not to look directly at it without appropriate precautions.
When it comes to traffic, it’s not just the number of cars, it’s what they do. Clearly, if you are not paying attention to your driving, you are creating a danger to yourself and others.
(As of early Saturday afternoon, there had been 1,561 fatalities on Georgia roads so far this year, according to the Department of Transportation.)
“Eagerness to view the eclipse is not an acceptable reason to drive aggressively or while distracted,” said Garrett Townsend, a spokesman for AAA.
The DOT reminded everyone that you should not:
-- park along the shoulder of the road, highway or interstate to view the eclipse
-- watch the eclipse while you are driving
Exit the highway and park in a safe area to watch, the DOT says. And, if you don’t happen to know what it means when the moon drops the sun, the DOT reminds you: When it gets darker, you will need to turn on your lights.
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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:
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