Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer
As several thousand eclipse viewers packed into the western Kentucky region, many events celebrated the celestial phenomena and led to increased volumes of traffic in some areas.
Keith Todd, districts one and two public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said a northbound backup on Pennyrile Parkway caused a few hour delay, and what is normally a two to three hour drive from Paducah, Kentucky to Elizabethtown, Kentucky turned into an eight hour trip.
“We were a little concerned about Eggner’s Ferry Bridge, but I’ve talked to some people who were up there yesterday, and they said while it did get crowded right before the eclipse, you could still walk across the bridge,” Todd said.
The bridge wasn’t gridlocked with people, and he said vehicular traffic kept moving even during the eclipse.
One thing he said he noticed was people were gradually coming into the area, and many were staying with family and friends, which made it hard to count how many people were in the area.
“One friend of mine was saying he grilled out in his yard and invited his neighbors to come over,” Todd said. “When it happened, they could hear people hooping and hollering down the street. That’s a pretty neat experience.”
Janice Wilson, public affairs specialist at Land Between the Lakes, said she estimates more than 50,000 people visited LBL to view the eclipse, but they are waiting on more information from traffic counters. LBL sold 2,000 camping permits for the weekend, plus she said there were lots of people who just drove down for the day.
“I think we may have underestimated how many people at one time would be in the Golden Pond Visitors Center,” Wilson said. “The facility wasn’t made for several hundred people to be there at the same time, but they were in and out, moving constantly, and everybody seemed to be happy.”
People moved to the observatory, where the West Kentucky Amateur Astronomers had about 800 people look through their large telescope on Sunday alone, which was more people than they’d ever had.
“It was a great day,” Wilson said. “I think everybody was here for a common cause, and a common experience, and our crowd was great. Everyone was happy and appreciative to be here. Our staff was all hands on deck, and it took every one of us to make this a safe and enjoyable experience for the visitors who were here.”
Wilson said 80 percent of the visitors had never been to LBL, while several countries were represented as well as most of the fifty states.
Sgt. Brant Shutt at the Murray Police Department said viewing in Murray had no issues.
“Everything here in town and even around town, from what I saw, went really smooth. We didn’t really have that much of an influx of traffic or anything,” Shutt said. “We basically just saw groups of people enjoying the eclipse, and that was good to see.”
Students assembled by the hundreds across campus to watch the eclipse, many of whom received free eclipse glasses sponsored by the College of Education and Human Services, the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology and the Student Government Association.
Jeanie Morgan, coordinator for student activities at Murray State, said SGA was delighted to be a part of the event and donate 275 pairs of glasses to students, while Paige Rogers, marketing coordinator for the College of Education and Human Services, said the college passed out a total of 1,000 glasses to the campus community.