TOPEKA — Though Aug. 21 isn’t considered a national holiday, plenty of people will take the day off work and hit the road Monday to view the nation’s first cross-country solar eclipse in 99 years.
The eclipse will be visible to people across the United States, but its path of total darkness will begin to cross through a sliver of northeast Kansas at approximately 11:40 a.m. that day.
In anticipation of thousands of people who will be traveling that day, AAA Kansas on Tuesday issued a reminder about what to expect — including crowded highways, along with sold-out campgrounds and hotels in the eclipse path.
AAA says Monday will mark “the first cross-country solar eclipse since the advent of the automobile and creation of the interstate system,” and will “briefly shroud Kansas in complete or nearly complete darkness as it cuts across America.”
In short, AAA reminds people that roads will be crowded and hotels and campgrounds will be full of individuals seeking to experience the first total eclipse to cross the United States since 1918.
“This eclipse will be an awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime event, and fortunately, Kansas is included in the path of 100 percent totality, with most other areas of the state experiencing 90 percent or more sun obstruction,” said AAA Kansas spokesman Shawn Steward. “Large numbers of motorists are traveling to see the eclipse, so AAA Kansas wants to remind eclipse seekers to map out their travel plans and viewing location in advance, and to be in place and safely off the roadways while gazing to the skies.”
Among driver safety tips for motorists during the solar eclipse:
• Exit the road and park in a safe area away from traffic to view the eclipse.
• Do not stop along the highway or interstate or park on the shoulder of the road.
• Keep headlights on — don’t rely on automatic headlights.
• Do not wear eclipse glasses while driving.
• Do not try to photograph or video the eclipse while driving.
• Be mindful of pedestrians who might be walking around with their eyes on the sky.
• Prepare for extra congestion on the roads during the eclipse period, but also in the days before and after the eclipse as many travelers head to the totality zone.
• Have your viewing location set and stay in place, avoiding travel during the eclipse.
Additionally, AAA Kansas says many people made their travel plans for eclipse viewing months in advance, likely making accommodations in the totality zone nearly impossible to secure.
For those planning to hit the road:
• Try to get to your viewing location one to two days ahead of the eclipse.
• With many hotels, motels and campgrounds in the path of 100 percent eclipse totality booked for months, consider other nearby locations. A travel agent or online travel booking resource can help you locate a hotel with vacancy.
• “Pack your patience” and plan for congestion on roads, especially as you get closer to locations within the path of totality.
• Keep up to date on weather conditions — if you find your original location might be cloudy or rainy, consider moving to another location.
• Don’t forget approved, safe eye protection for viewing the eclipse. NASA provides details on how to view the solar eclipse safely.
• Learn about eclipse viewing parties and events across the state, highlighted by Travel Kansas
“This is really a unique ‘destination’ and a unique opportunity for those with a little sense of adventure to experience something special,” said Suzanne Aresco, AAA director of travel. “The excitement has been growing for weeks now in all our AAA offices and, along with it, the number of people stopping by for help mapping out their trips has been growing as well.
“If you’re planning to travel to the path of totality, we recommend you plan out every detail — select a destination, map out a route, allow plenty of travel time and be flexible.”
AAA also said 250 million Americans live within 600 miles of the total eclipse path. Because the eclipse will take place on a Monday, the trek to see it could start as early as the Friday before.
The path of totality will pass over 14 states, starting at Lincoln Beach, Ore., and leave American soil at McClellanville, S.C., according to AAA.
Darkness will last anywhere from a few seconds to two minutes 41 seconds, depending on the location. Additionally, 20 national parks will be touched by the path of totality.
Kansas residents will see the eclipse from 85 percent sun obstruction in Elkhart in the far southwest corner of Kansas to a swath of 100 percent eclipse totality across northeast Kansas, including the northern parts of Kansas City, Kan., Leavenworth, Atchison, Hiawatha, Holton, Horton and Marysville.
“In Kansas, the moon will begin covering the sun at around 11:30 a.m.,” Brad Nuest, space science educator with the Cosmosphere international science education center and space museum in Hutchinson, said in a AAA news release. “The moon will continue to slowly cover the sun until around 1 p.m. or shortly after, when most of sun will be blocked by the moon, allowing only a small sliver of sunlight to get through, and in some places in the northeast part of the state, 100 percent obstruction.
“After this, the moon begins uncovering the sun until about 2:30 p.m. when the sun is completely uncovered. Viewers must take precautions to protect their eyesight from permanent damage when viewing the eclipse. Approved solar eclipse glasses and welding helmets provide protection against the sun’s harmful rays.”