Traveling for the Eclipse? Don’t start a wildfire

Wildfire Generic

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Idaho to view the August 21 solar eclipse – right in the middle of fire season. The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has some simple tips to avoid accidentally starting a wildfire during your road trip.

The majority of wildfires in Idaho are started by us humans. Driving in your car can be the source of several ways those fires start, whether it’s hanging metal hitting the road or throwing out lit cigarettes.

Here are four things to do while you’re on the road to see the solar eclipse:

  1. Before leaving, look under your car and check for hanging parts. Mufflers often get knocked loose and can hang low to the ground. If you see something hanging down, tie it up. These parts can skip on pavement and shower sparks on grasses alongside the roadway.
  2. If you are towing a trailer or camper, ensure safety chains are fastened and not dragging. Bumps in the road can cause hanging chains to hit the ground and spark.
  3. Don’t drive or park on tall grass. The exterior of your engine or exhaust can get up to 2,800°F. Contact with dry grass can easily start a fire. See this video PSA from U.S. Forest Service.
  4. Don’t throw out lit cigarettes. When you’re done with a cigarette, make sure the end is completely put out and cool to the touch. Otherwise, you’re throwing a small fire onto a big pile of tinder.

ITD hopes everyone traveling to see the eclipse has a fun and safe time. By checking your car before you leave and making smart choices on the road, you can help ensure this experience stays wildfire free.

4 myths about road tripping for the solar eclipse in Idaho

4 Eclipse Trip Myths

The August 21 solar eclipse has everyone talking. Unfortunately, some of those conversations are filled with made up assumptions, inaccuracies, or straight-up lies. So, in this age of alternative facts, here are four road myths surrounding the eclipse we want to clear up.

#1. The interstate will be turned into a one-way – FALSE

We’ve heard it from all over the state of Idaho: “The route in my backyard will be changed to go just one direction.” This is absolutely false. This rumor is so untrue, the pants set on fire by those telling it runs the risk of burning down the entire state.

So, let’s be very clear. Whatever the configuration of the road is today will be the configuration before, during, and after the eclipse. I-15 will remain a north- and southbound road; same for U.S. 95 –  and so on and so forth.

#2. Semi-trucks will not be allowed on the road – MOSTLY FALSE

Most commercial traffic will be allowed to travel during the eclipse – though we want to throw out there that traffic will likely be congested. There will be a restriction on very large loads.

The Division of Motor Vehicles is implementing a “holiday protocol” for those big rigs. Starting Sunday, Aug. 20th at 4 p.m. and ending at dawn Aug. 22 loads exceeding 10’ wide, 100’ long or 14’6” may not travel on Interstate or State highways south of Lewiston.

For questions, call the overlegal permits department at 208.334.8420 or email at permits@itd.idaho.gov

#3. All construction will be suspended during the eclipse – SOMEWHAT TRUE

Okay, construction is complicated. The window for crews to get into a place and do work that may take months to complete can be narrow. Where projects can be suspended to improve traffic flow and safety, we are doing that. For some projects, we can’t – if we’ve only got one lane done on a bridge, we can’t pull up and make a difference.

If it helps, we’ll have flaggers out to help move people along. Please use extra caution and patience in active work zones.

#4. Traveling for the eclipse is like driving to work. I don’t need to take extra steps – FALSE

Areas where the moon will completely block the sun – the “Path of Totality” – generally fall on pretty remote parts of Idaho. We’re talking bad or no cell signal, sparse services like gas stations, and lots of big critters that can cross the road. Also, much of southern Idaho is a desert, full of dry grass just waiting to catch fire.

Plan ahead and make smart choices during your trip. Your GPS may not work in the mountains so bring a physical map (they still make those), extra food and water, and fill your tank full before you cross into the hinterlands. Also, make sure nothing is hanging low from your car or trailer. A dropped muffler can hit the road and spark, which is a great way to start a wildfire.

This total solar eclipse is a rare opportunity to see something amazing and we are excited so many people want to come to beautiful Idaho to see it. Help share these truths and bust those myths out there!

Things to check before your eclipse road trip

Road Trip Generic

The Idaho Transportation Department is advising drivers who are planning to travel to view the eclipse to be prepared in the event of delays or an emergency.

The eclipse takes place on Monday, Aug. 21. It is anticipated there will be numerous travelers on highways and local routes.

Drivers should ensure their vehicles are in good working order. This includes getting the tire pressure checked, and making sure a vehicle’s battery, tires, headlights and brakes are in good working order.

In addition, drivers should carry emergency flares or portable signs to alert other drivers of an emergency, extra food and water, extra clothing or blankets for cooler weather, a flashlight with fully charged batteries, a fully charged cell phone and a map of Idaho highways.

The transportation department’s 511 web page and mobile app for Apple or Android will alert drivers to delays on the state’s highways. However, those planning to use the app on their smart phones or check web pages likely will not have cell service in remote or mountainous areas in Idaho.

When possible, travelers are encouraged to return home on Tuesday, Aug. 22, or later in the week. This will reduce the number of vehicles on highways that are returning home Monday afternoon.

The transportation department is working to develop a statewide plan to ensure motorists have the information they need ahead of the Aug. 21 event. ITD’s Jennifer Gonzalez shares some information about the agency’s preparation efforts, including how drivers can prepare, in the latest edition of the department’s In Motion video series below.

Interagency effort underway to prep for Idaho Solar Eclipse

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As the countdown to the August 21 solar eclipse approaches, the state of Idaho is gearing up for a potentially large influx of visitors that will be descending into southern Idaho to view this natural phenomenon.

In preparation for the event, the Idaho Transportation Department is working with other state and local agencies actively preparing and organizing a statewide plan, which includes being responsive, ready to assist law enforcement and most importantly, reducing impacts to travelers before, during and after the eclipse

“We know this will be a big draw for tourism in Idaho and most of the people are going to use our roads to get there and see it,” said ITD Chief Engineer Kimbol Allen. “We want visitors to have an enjoyable time in Idaho. We want to make sure that we do everything we can do have the roads open and ready to allow traffic to get in and back out after the eclipse.”

ITD is sharing tips with travelers on our website-as well as on overhead message boards and through the media that focus on safety, preparedness and travel plans. Most importantly, ITD encourages everyone to be patient, be responsible and give yourself enough time for travel prior to and after the eclipse.

We want our resources out informing people about what’s happening and what they can expect and what they can do about it and where the can be be, safely, to enjoy the eclipse.

The Idaho Department of Commerce has also devoted a statewide website with links to local planning resources, preparedness information and eclipse materials.

ITD making plans for a safe and enjoyable eclipse Aug. 21

In three weeks, thousands of people from around the world are expected to hit the road in Idaho to see the Great American Eclipse. As Idahoans and visitors make their way toward their viewing destination, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) reminds drivers there are a few things to keep in mind to have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Before, during and after the event, the department will maintain normal traffic patterns and will NOT change any lane directions – for example, lanes that are typically northbound will remain northbound throughout the eclipse weekend.

Traffic is expected to increase around prime viewing areas in the path of totality. ITD is taking steps to keep traffic moving in those areas during the eclipse – construction and maintenance projects will be suspended where possible, response teams will be deployed to assist disabled vehicles, and digital message boards provide drivers with traffic information.

Rest areas will remain open to the public but overnight camping will not be allowed. Drivers are also asked not to park on the roadway, shoulders, or emergency turnouts during the eclipse.

Heavy congestion and delays are expected in the days around the eclipse – please be patient — for the latest road conditions, visit 511.idaho.gov.

ITD gearing up for eclipse chasers

Preparations at ITD Headquarters and in the districts are well underway for the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Officials throughout the department are planning for the event, coordinating with state and local governments and other community leaders on preparations.

ITD wants to make viewing of the solar eclipse in Idaho a safe and enjoyable experience for residents and visitors alike by keeping highways open and traffic flowing.

In case you haven’t heard, the eclipse is a big deal. The moon will fully obscure the sun for more than two minutes, completely shadowing a narrow band of the lower 48 for the first time since 1979.

Southern Idaho lies in the center of that band, which is referred to as the “Path of Totality.” The moon’s umbra shadow will pass over the countryside through this band.

ITD is developing an incident-response plan, identifying locations that may become bottlenecks, and developing traffic-control plans. Officials tentatively anticipate they may suspend highway construction Friday through Wednesday.

Make your plans – and support ITD in making its preparations. The agency aims to provide the level of service expected of the best transportation department in the country.

To catch the excitement of this major celestial event, see the projected path of the shadow as it passes over Idaho https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4515.

The state’s typically sunny August weather means there is a good chance there will be few, if any, clouds in the sky when the eclipse occurs.

The point isn’t lost on eclipse chasers, who have booked up motels, campgrounds and even homes in the region to view the “totality.”

They also like the fact that Idaho is situated at a high altitude, closer to the sky than many parts of the country. Estimates are for tens and even hundreds of thousands of people to descend on Idaho — some projections put the migration at more than one million.

The event begins in the late morning of August. 21 in Weiser and ends in the early afternoon in Driggs. Other towns in the center of the path are Mackay, Mud Lake, Rigby, Rexburg and Victor. Area residents should buckle up.

If you unavailable, uninterested or have other plans August 21 and intend to catch the next total solar eclipse in Idaho, prepare to wait for 152 years.