Updated estimates for the total solar eclipse have area emergency management officials preparing for tens of thousands of visitors to the region.
Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham said emergency management officials in Hopkinsville had been underestimating the number of visitors to the city for the eclipse on August 21 and events leading up to it the weekend prior.
Hopkinsville Eclipse Coordinator Brooke Jung said city officials had initially anticipated around 50,000 to 60,000 visitors in Hopkinsville but expanded that number to 100,000 after an audience member at a recent astronomy conference questioned the estimate.
In an earlier version of this story, Graham had said NASA informed Hopkinsville EM that they were underestimating the number of visitors to the city. Graham told WKMS News in a follow-up that he had misspoken regarding NASA. However, EM officials are still preparing for a significant turnout as high as a half-million people in the region.
According to a Kentucky Emergency Management and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet press release, EM officials are expecting between 100,000 and 500,000 travelers arriving among 10 west Kentucky counties as early as three days before the eclipse.
Graham said the revised estimate for the city of Hopkinsville includes friends and family members coming to stay with local residents.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet public information officer Keith Todd said people should be prepared for gridlock along area highways.
“We don’t want people just coming down here and stopping along the side of the road because that creates a hazard for both those people and other travellers,” Todd said.
Todd said KYTC is encouraging travelers to stop at parks to view the eclipse. Road crews will install message boards along interstates and parkways to direct people. Gridlock is predicted along Interstate 24 and also Kentucky 91 between Princeton and Hopkinsville. Local roadways are also expected to become heavily congested.
*This story has been revised for clarity and updated for accuracy.