AAA expects hundreds of thousands to hit highways as total solar eclipse approaches

Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 23:33:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- AAA anticipates hundreds of thousands of drivers will hit I-15 and I-80 this weekend.

Families are packing their vehicles to drive to the solar eclipse path of totality, which is just a few hours north of Salt Lake City.

Todd Tanner had a look at the traffic impact Friday night, see the video below for his live report.

Some of the towns along that path include Idaho Falls in Idaho as well as Casper and Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

AAA said Idaho Falls generally has a population of about 60,000, but on Monday morning the city will host anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 people. AAA also said all the hotels and rental cars have been checked out in the city and surrounding areas.

The Utah Department of Transportation said their projected numbers for vehicles are guesses from the traffic engineers, because they do not have any other type of event to compare this to. The last total solar eclipse that passed through the U.S. was in 1979.

“A lot of other states are handling it like a hurricane event, where a lot of people will be on those roads for an extended period of time,” said UDOT spokesperson Zach Whitney.

Whitney also said this weekend’s northbound travel is not UDOT’s biggest concern.

“On Monday, after it happens, that is when everybody leaves, they all have to be back home for Tuesday, so they are all going to try to leave on Monday," he said.

Whitney reminded everyone to pack extra gasoline, start with full tanks and to bring a first-aid kit, food, water and your solar shades. He also said to be sure to pack your patience.