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Traveling for Eclipse: Plan Ahead!

Traveling for Eclipse: Plan Ahead! (File Image)

With the Great American Solar Eclipse just about a week away, it's time to make sure your plans are in place! What makes this so special is that the entire continent of North America will get to see some degree of a solar eclipse. The majority will see varying levels of a partial eclipse.

However, if you want to experience the magic that is a total solar eclipse, you're going to need to travel. "There’s no getting around the fact that it is literally night and day. In an eclipse 99 percent coverage versus 100 percent coverage is the difference between night and day,” says Dr. Alex Young, the Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Division at NASA.

The only problem: it's estimated that millions of other people, have the same plan.

"We know that 14 states are going to be in the direct path of the total eclipse. It represents about 200 million people that are within a day's drive of getting to within the direct path," says Martin Knopp, Associate Administrator for Operations of the Federal Highway Administration.

It is important that you plan ahead and pack wisely. Your time on the highway could be significantly longer than you're expecting. Plan ahead with food, water, and any medicine you might need. Many areas around the path of totality are fairly rural. There may not be a ton of options nearby.

Weather will also dictate whether any of us will be able to see the eclipse, regardless of where you are. Clouds and rain in the way would block the show put on by the moon and the sun. If you're trying to change locations based on the weather last minute, just be mindful that most other people will be doing that too.

Of course, how many people actually plan to make a trip to the path of totality is unknown, but you should expect much more traffic than normal. Knopp stresses that this is not something you should do at the spur of the moment. He recommends trying to travel on days surrounding the event, not on eclipse Monday the 21st.

Totality will come an go quickly along this path. While the eclipse will happen over the span of almost 3 hours, totality, when the sun is completely covered, will last about two minutes. When it's over, that's a lot of people hitting the road all at once.

While I can't recommend driving down the highway, here's at least an idea of how far you'd have to go:

Heading south on I-95 to totality could take you to near Sumter or Shiloh, S.C. Google Maps estimates that at 425 miles and almost 6 1/2 hours from D.C. (in normal traffic).

If you opt to head west instead and take I-81 toward the path of totality, you'll be in the path in Rockford, Tennesee, just beyond Knoxville. Google Maps puts that just shy of 500 miles of driving from D.C. and taking almost 7 1/2 hours.

Remember, around D.C. we'll see a partial eclipse of about 80 percent of the sun. You will need solar glasses to look at the eclipse as the sun will still be incredibly bright and dangerous to look at directly. To watch totality you can tune in to NewsChannel8 as we broadcast from several locations across the country, or watch here at www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.

For more locations along the path, check here.

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