BOISE - The countdown is on: just a little over a month until the total solar eclipse - the first to cross the entire country since 1918!
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to the Gem State to see this phenomenon, as 19 Idaho counties are in the path of totality and people there will witness total obscuration of the sun.
Several state agencies have been working together and gearing up for the historic event since last year and they have a strong message to send to visitors and locals: if you plan on viewing the total eclipse or if you're anywhere near the path in Idaho, you will be affected by this event somehow, so state agencies want to make sure everyone is prepared and patient.
"This is a big deal; it's not just a big deal for people in Idaho, this is a big deal for people across the world," Idaho Transportation Department Communication Manager Vincent Trimboli told KTVB.
State leaders are estimating up to 500,000 people will be spread out over the Gem State - mostly in Idaho's smallest, rural towns because they will have the best view.
"Probably could be the largest traffic event for Idaho," Trimboli added.
From law enforcement, to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD), to the Idaho Office of Emergency Management (IOEM), it's all hands on deck come Monday, August 21 and the weekend leading up to it.
"We do anticipate it'll be something we've never experienced before," Idaho Office of Emergency Management Public Affairs Officer, Elizabeth Duncan, said. "We consider it an emergency ahead of time because of the number of people coming in and how that will tax some of our resources," Duncan added.
Duncan says the job of IOEM is to help communities plan and prepare, provide logistical assistance to counties and ensure counties have the resources and assets they need for the inundation of crowds.
"It's going to be a slow go," Trimboli said. "Traffic is not going to be moving at whatever the posted speed limit is on this day."
ITD says they will put up traffic counters around the state before the eclipse to help strategize day-of plans and they will post messages on dynamic message signs across the state leading up to the event and on the day of the eclipse with warnings and safety tips.
"As much as possible, we're going to suspend construction for the three days around the eclipse as well, just to make sure people can get in and out of the state as easily as possible," Trimboli added.
A lot of the cars on Idaho's roads will be in our rural communities.
MORE: ITD, ISP prepare for solar eclipse, big impact on traffic
The Idaho Office of Emergency Management says the eclipse will pass into Idaho around 10:10 a.m. Mountain Time over Washington County on the west and pass out of Idaho in the east around 12:48 p.m. Mountain Time near Teton County. Many other communities close to the path will experience a very deep partial eclipse. Experts list Idaho as a prime viewing state since there are such clear skies in areas with totality.
"We are working hand-in-hand with them to make sure that we do whatever we can with traffic control, flaggers, whatever it may be to make sure people are as safe as possible on the roads," Trimboli said. "We will have crews out there across the state ready to help."
Across those parts of Idaho in the path of totality, the eclipse is expected to last anywhere from a minute to more than two minutes.
"The challenge will be when everybody has seen it and it's wonderful and they're all mesmerized by it, then they get in their car with half a million other people and head home," Duncan said. "Are you prepared to be perhaps stuck in a car for hours?"
Thus, heed this advice: view the eclipse in a safe place, off the road. If you're out driving around during the total solar eclipse, don't stop in the middle of the road.
Also, don't just wing it:
"Have a family plan, let people know where you're going and when to expect you back."
Emergency management officials say make sure you have a travel preparedness kit handy: pack days worth of extra non-perishable food, two gallons of water per person per day, cash, a full tank of gas, a first-aid kit, phone and phone charger, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries, whistle, local maps, prescription medication, emergency contact information, and if you have a pet and/or baby, any necessary supplies, water and food.
Also, make sure you have safety glasses when you're watching the eclipse because ultraviolet exposure could lead to eye damage.
To help reduce congestion on Idaho roadways, Trimboli recommends staggering your return trip.
"If you cannot come back on that Monday, stay a couple extra days."
Officials say if you don't have a plan for the event yet but want to ensure you witness the event, make one.
"Come, enjoy yourself, it's wonderful. We want people to come to Idaho and see what a beautiful state it is, but be prepared," Duncan said.
That time in August will also be peak fire season, so officials are urging you to be extra cautious.
In addition, KTVB is told almost every hotel, motel and campground (even some yards and pastures) within 100 miles north and south of the path of totality have been booked for several months to years!
KTVB will continue to cover the solar eclipse as we get closer and closer to the historic event.
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