Columbia, SC (WLTX) - There is no doubt. The total solar eclipse is going to be a big event. People are coming from all over to see the spectacle.
The South Carolina Emergency Management Division said the Columbia area may see anywhere from 140,000 to half a million people and our state could see over one million visitors. Or even more.
That's a lot of people and a lot of cars on the roads, so what's the plan if there is an emergency?
The Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina Highway Patrol, HAM Radio and South Carolina Emergency Management Division will be on stand by with extra staff.
We have at least four major routes coming into Columbia: Interstates 77, 20, 26 and 126. DOT said construction will stop for the weekend, lanes will be open and if you'd like to learn more there's an app for that. You can check out the the 511 South Carolina Traffic App on your phone.
The South Carolina Highway Patrol is requesting that drivers do not stop on the highway and do not park on the shoulder. If you want to view the eclipse, drive off of the road and pull into a parking lot. Crews need to be able to use the emergency lanes and road shoulders.
Local crews will also have all hands on deck. Chief Aubrey Jenkins with the Columbia Fire Department gave an example of how they would react to an emergency. If an incident happened at the Broad River Bridge on Interstate 20 fire crews would deploy from their Eau Claire station from one end and the St. Andrews station on the other - coming from different directions to meet on both sides of the emergency.
Also be prepared for delays. All of these numbers are estimates. To put in perspective, there were 81,409 fans inside of Williams-Brice Stadium during the 2015 Carolina versus Clemson game. We know how bad game day traffic can be, but if the state sees one million people you can multiply that 80,000 by 12. News19 Chief Meteorologist Jim Gandy said that we haven't seen anything like this and the best possible comparison may be when Hurricane Floyd hit in 1999.
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