August eclipse to bring heavy traffic amid the darkness

In this photo provided by Tourism Queensland, the moment of a total solar eclipse is observed at Cape Tribulation in Queensland state, Australia, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tourism Queensland)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Clarksville Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office are preparing for traffic challenges that could come with a wave of visitors and the midday darkness created by the August 21 eclipse.

The rare astronomical occurrence will be the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 98 years and the first in the continental United States since 1978.

MORE: Tennessee will see something it hasn’t in over 500 years: A total solar eclipse

The epicenter of the eclipse is less than 30 minutes from Clarksville-Montgomery County, which puts the area in what’s known as the “path of totality.”

Authorities say Montgomery County observers will get 2 minutes and 18 seconds of total darkness starting at 1:27 p.m. CDT on that day.

Since the community offers a unique front-row seat to experience this phenomenon, tourism officials estimate up to 200,000 visitors will pour into the Clarksville area.

Special skywatching events are planned at Liberty Park, Austin Peay State University, Beachaven Winery and other venues.

More than 200 local law enforcement officers will be out in force to ensure safety and provide travel assistance.

Here are some tips offered by Montgomery County authorities for getting safely around town on the big day:

  • If possible, avoid being on the roads from noon to 3 p.m. during the eclipse.
  • Be prepared for traffic delays, as some visitors may be on the move to “chase the eclipse.”
  • Fill your gas tank before you head out, since there could be long lines at the pumps.
  •  Have an emergency kit and plan ahead; make sure someone knows your route in case something happens.
  •  Stop or park in authorized areas only: sidewalks, shoulders of the road, private property and areas near intersections are not legal parking areas.
  •  If you have a non-injury crash, pull off of the road and wait for police.