National News

Emergency response crews prepare for gridlocked roads on Eclipse Day

Posted August 9

— Emergency responders are struggling to know how to exactly prepare for something they do not know much about.

Missourians will be able to see a total solar eclipse on August 21 in many parts of the state. Since Missouri is such a good state to view it, many people from out of town will be pouring into the area and filling the roadways, which is why the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the American Red Cross of St. Louis are doing their best to plan for the influx of people to the area.

Nurse Kim Robinson will be at work the day of the eclipse.

"Unfortunately I am going to be at work. I'm bummed I'm not going to see it all, but I'll get to look out the window I guess," said Robinson, but being stuck somewhere until 8 p.m., may actually be lucky. "I won't have to be stuck in traffic because I know it's going to be a mad house with people all excited about seeing it."

MoDOT will be monitoring traffic from their control centers the weekend before the eclipse, the day of and the day after. They expect large amounts of traffic in the St. Louis area on all of those days.

"Estimates range anywhere from 300,000 to 1.2 million," said Linda Wilson Horn with MoDOT Communications.

There's no way of knowing exactly what the roads are going to look like on August 21 and the days around it, but they can prepare and predict from learning from past examples.

"In the 90s, there was a similar total eclipse that went through Europe, and the stories we've been told from Europe was that people would drive two hours to go see it, and it took them 8-10 hours to drive home," said Wilson Horn.

If what happens in Europe happens in Missouri, the American Red Cross of St. Louis plans to be along congested interstates with water and cooling shelters if people overheat or their cars stall.

"Some of the things we have are the water, cots, blankets....we also call our volunteers and have them on stand by, and just do a call down of availability, and this time it will be really important to find out their location, just in case they are not able to travel on the major highways," said Chris Harmon, Disaster Coordinator with the American Red Cross of St. Louis.

However, the shelters they will be setting up for the eclipse weekend will be reserved for victims of disasters unrelated to the eclipse. They are not for tourists who can't find a hotel to stay in.

"Day to day, we have single family fires and we put those clients in hotels and if they don't have a place to go, we want to plan for that so they have a place to go," said Harmon, "All we can do is just prep for what we think."

MoDOT says it is illegal to park on the side of the interstate or highway, so you cannot do it to watch the eclipse. MoDOT says parking on the side of the highway increases the chances of causing a crash.

Copyright 2017 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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