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With the 2024 Total eclipse coming up in a few weeks, I'm surprised I haven't found this directly addressed anywhere else.

I live South of Pittsburgh, PA. Our plan was to drive up to either Erie or the outskirts of Cleveland, or some place along lake Erie, the day of, then maybe head home after dinner. On a normal day, we can make Erie in just over 2 hours.

I have found article after article and comment after comment saying to plan for "heavy traffic" and "delays", alongside terms like "very busy" and "mobbed", but no real specifics that would help us in planning. This could mean that our 2 hour drive becomes a 3 hour drive. Or it could mean that we will leave at 8am and then spend 6 hours getting halfway there and still be stuck on the interstate. Knowing which of those we're closer to will help us know when to leave and how to travel.

Given that we have experienced a very similar event in 2017 and have data to draw on, what can we expect actual delays to look like in travelling into the path of totality? And do those delays change substantially if we head up secondary routes to smaller towns?

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  • towns like Niagara Falls are saying "you probably won't be able to buy any food all the restaurants will be full" and "locals, buy your gas a day or two before to avoid crowds and lineups of visitors". Mar 20 at 14:36
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    Note that if you are driving up I-79, the range of totality starts at about Maurice K Goddard State park. At that location the totality lasts about 1 min. At Erie it self, the totality lasts about 2 minutes. Both maxes occur around 3:18pm. So anywhere north of that park will be fine to view the eclipse.
    – Peter M
    Mar 20 at 14:50
  • Back in 1999, we had an eclipse in the UK which was total in one corner of the country. The traffic forecasts were extremely bad. We went a day ahead and got there with little trouble at all. Unfortunately, we had total cloud cover. Friends who stayed home only got a partial eclipse but without the clouds.
    – badjohn
    Mar 20 at 16:42
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    To add onto my previous comment. The line of maximum totality seems to run parallel up the coast of Lake Erie, and is about 1 or 2 miles offshore. You need to take this into account. FYI While there are many tools to do so, I use The Photographer's Ephemeris to track where the eclipse will be. I'm not involved with that product, aside from being a very happy customer.
    – Peter M
    Mar 20 at 17:40

2 Answers 2

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Based on my experience during the 2017 eclipse, traffic in the path of totality from roughly first contact to the end of totality will be far below normal. Yes, that's a picture of someone lying in the middle of the road to watch the eclipse.

Before the eclipse, there will be a lot of unusual traffic as people move to viewing sites. With this eclipse, I expect the traffic to start around sunrise. By first contact, all the good viewing sites and most of the bad ones will be packed, and people will have settled down to watch the eclipse.

Starting right at the end of totality, there will be a massive flood of people leaving viewing sites to find something else to do. This will likely continue for the rest of the day. Your best bet for avoiding traffic is to stay where you are and keep watching the eclipse through final contact.

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  • There were plenty of viewing spots in rural Arkansas this year. But I’m sure Dallas would’ve been much more difficult.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 9 at 14:09
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Update post eclipse

We drove at 5am from Dallas to Atkins (Arkansas), to ensure we get perfect clear skies. There was no unexpected traffic on the way to the eclipse and if anything traffic right prior to first contact was minimal. I think most people traveled to the eclipse ahead of time and stayed in a hotel / with friends nearby, so there wasn’t a huge morning rush.

However leaving the eclipse was a different story: what was supposed to be a 5 hour drive became a 6.5 hour drive. Not too bad but definitely a bit of a hassle. Hopefully this will be useful to the people reading this in preparation for the 2045 eclipse in the US :-)


This is very hard to predict because:

  1. Some people will avoid travel that day specifically because they’ll fear traffic jams. This is what happened during the 2012 Olympics in London - everyone expected insane traffic jams and packed subways but in the end traffic was lighter during the event due to so many people doing their best to avoid London at that time.
  2. There was a recent eclipse in the same area in 2017 so lots of people are not that interested in traveling to see it again. I’m personally going to see it in Texas because I wasn’t in the U.S. in 2017 but many of my friends are not interested as they’ve seen it 7 years ago.
  3. There are hundreds of roads and predicting exact travel times for each during a once-in-a-decade event is nigh impossible.

What I would suggest you do - and what I’m personally planning to do in Texas this April:

  1. Plan to get up around 3am to start driving to the location where you’re planning to see the eclipse. This is important not just due to traffic jams but also due to potential for rain/clouds in the area. You might end up having to drive a few hundred miles that morning to get to a road with zero cloud coverage, especially since you’ll be in the Northeast of the country.
  2. Plan for everything to be heavily jammed and presume that you won’t get home before late evening in the worst case scenario. I’d also pack food, water and have a full tank of gas to avoid relying on buying anything on the day of the eclipse.
  3. You could book a hotel on the eclipse path and stay there the night before but even that is not a guarantee given the possibility of clouds/rain, so I’m not sure it would be worth the 10x inflated hotel prices.

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