Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer
As Monday’s total solar eclipse approaches, the city of Murray as well as local viewing areas are gearing up to welcome visitors to Western Kentucky.
“We are not expecting there to be any major issues over the weekend and during the eclipse, but anytime there are more people moving through the area than usual, there is always a possibility of traffic issues,” Sgt. Brant Shutt said in a Murray Police Department media release Thursday.
Shutt said he believes the main issue in Murray will be the traffic moving through to areas of totality, but he expects everything to run smoothly.
Keith Todd, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said the Cabinet has deployed dozens of portable message boards across the region’s roads with messages such as “Heavy Event Traffic Ahead” and “Be Prepared to Stop”.
Todd said Hopkinsville, Kentucky is expecting visitors from 29 countries, three territories and 47 states and the Land Between the Lakes area is expecting around 50,000 people.
Michael E. Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, said the eclipse is a premier opportunity for Kentucky to showcase an exciting astronomical experience.
“Hundreds of thousands of people will visit our great Commonwealth seeking the viewing opportunity of a lifetime,” Dossett said. “It is our mission in preparedness to ensure their safety and provide support to our local communities in making that happen.”
Kentucky Emergency Management will activate the State Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort and a Regional Response Coordination Center in Hopkinsville.
In a press briefing Friday, several transportation authorities gave insight to what the traffic and safety precautions will be in the Hopkinsville area.
Clayton Sumner, Hopkinsville chief of police, said Monday, there will be eight times more officers on duty than the usual number on any typical day or night.
Wayne Burd, assistant director of operations for Kentucky Emergency Management, said 21 counties will experience a total eclipse in Western Kentucky. For the last several months, they have encouraged training for heavy traffic flow and emergency situations.
In Hopkinsville, where they are expecting traffic flows of up to 150,000 people, Burd said some emergency precautions include relying on a radio system instead of cellphone, opening emergency shelters if necessary and providing cooling shelters.
“Capacity is going to be a problem, and we understand that,” Randy Graham, the Christian County Emergency Management director, said. “In our outreach to all those folks who are coming here, we’ve told them to know where they’re going, but also print maps.”
Considering possible issues, Graham said he advises visitors to come early, stay put and then stay late.
Murray Independent Schools canceled school for Monday, but Calloway County Schools has not. Shutt said families should have a plan and should talk to their children about safety precautions for viewing. He said it was wise for Murray to close because of the safety measures involved in keeping every student safe during schooltime.
According to NASA, the only safe way to look directly at the eclipse is through special-purpose solar filters or “eclipse glasses” that meet the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 protocol. The eclipse will occur in a narrow path, 60 to 70 miles in width, from Oregon to South Carolina. The longest period of time when the moon completely blocks the sun from any location on the path is as much as two minutes and 40 seconds. Hopkinsville lies within the path of 100% totality, while Murray is just south of it, at 99.9% total coverage.
Solar eclipse glasses are available in limited quantities at Orscheln Farm & Home in Murray, the Murray Lowe’s, and the Marshall County Public Library in Calvert City, Kentucky.