Total solar eclipse brings throngs of visitors to Wyoming
By Sarah Pridgeon
The skies momentarily darkened and the world went quiet for a minute or two on Monday as the sun passed over Crook County on its obscured journey across the continental United States. Outside the path of totality, viewers here were treated to a 95 percent occlusion.
The northeast of the state also largely escaped the hustle and bustle of the estimated one million visitors who flocked across the border to enjoy the first total solar eclipse in this part of the world for almost four decades.
Just past the southern border of the county, it became much more apparent how popular this once-in-a-lifetime event was proving. Celestial tourists flocked to towns along the path of totality, which ran through the center of the state, particularly Casper and Jackson but also destinations such as Lusk and Douglas.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic flowed into the eclipse sites as the moment neared, but Wyoming had already been seeing much busier roads than usual as visitors arrived in plenty of time to get settled. Tourists arrived from almost every state and across the world; in Casper, hundreds of visitors stuck pins into a world map, with almost every continent represented.
Traffic began to increase almost a week before the big day, with WYDOT reporting double the traffic compared to the five-year average on Friday, August 19 and increases of 18 and 27 percent over the weekend.
In the northeast, I-90 saw a ten to 20 percent traffic increase the day before the eclipse as visitors traveled south from South Dakota, Montana and beyond. The state as a whole saw an increase of more than 217,000 vehicles, with the most traffic in Laramie, Teton and Natrona counties.
On the day of the eclipse itself, 536,000 vehicles took to the roads in Wyoming.
“These are historic traffic numbers for Wyoming. Our maintenance crews and troopers did an outstanding job under extremely difficult circumstances,” said WYDOT Director Bill Panos.
Traffic came to a standstill near the larger cities, with W
YDOT warning motorists to come prepared with a full tank of water and extra food and water. Despite vehicles snaking to the horizon and beyond on the way south towards Lusk, the traffic moved at normal speeds and had mostly dispersed before hitting Crook County.