Planning a road trip for this month’s big eclipse? Be prepared for traffic, and for a heavy law enforcement presence.
“Any of those major thoroughfares or major routes, we will be monitoring them on a 24/7 basis the weekend before and day of the eclipse,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Southern.
The exact number of state troopers stationed between Beaufort County and Charleston along I-95 or U.S. 17 could not be provided, but additional manpower from South Carolina Highway Patrol headquarters and State Transport Police is being added across the Palmetto State.
The State recently reported that 160 extra state troopers will be stationed along the I-26 corridor between Columbia and Charleston during the eclipse. While the major roads leading into the path of the eclipse from Beaufort County will certainly have significant monitoring from the Highway Patrol, there is a reason more northern cities and roads are receiving special attention.
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“The path of the eclipse goes from Greenville into Columbia and then down into Charleston, so that is why there is such a major focus there,” said Southern.
Planning for the eclipse began last year for the Highway Patrol, which has partnered with the state’s Emergency Management Division and Department of Transportation to prepare for the eclipse, and Southern feels confident that together they are ready to handle the additional traffic burden it will bring on.
“This is not a natural disaster,” said Southern. “We plan all the time for natural disasters, hurricanes and things where there’s a lot of traffic. We know the exact timetable on the eclipse, so we’re able to put our resources in place ahead of it and be ready on an exact timetable.”
Anywhere between a half million and 2 million people are expected to travel to South Carolina for the eclipse, which will have a major impact on roads throughout the state. The South Carolina Department of Transportation is planning to suspend lane closures the weekend of the eclipse, and the Emergency Management Division has formulated a readiness plan.
“Be prepared for a lot of people,” said Derrec Becker, public information officer with SCEMD. “Go ahead and make sure your car is filled up with gas. Go ahead and buy groceries. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to go, and prepare for long lines.”
Rob Perry, state traffic management engineer for the South Carolina Department of Transportation predicts traffic on par with the 4th of July weekend, perhaps worse.
Traffic issues will be exacerbated by the fact that unlike other high traffic events which are localized to certain cities or tourist destinations, this month’s eclipse will traverse the entire state. It should be a magical experience, but Southern stressed the importance of readiness.
“The one thing we’re asking the public is to be prepared,” said Southern. “If you have no desire to participate in the eclipse, the best thing you can do is stay off the roads. That will really help us. If you have to get out in traffic give yourself ample time to get from Point A to Point B and expect traffic not just on the day of the eclipse but the days leading up to it.”