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250,000 people expected to travel to Erie to see total solar eclipse

Law enforcement and businesses preparing for total solar eclipse in Erie
Law enforcement and businesses preparing for total solar eclipse in Erie 02:55

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An estimated 250,000 people are expected to travel to Erie to experience the path of totality for the solar eclipse next month. 

Law enforcement and businesses are already preparing for the big day.

"Everybody is getting excited," Pennsylvania State Police Troop E Commander Capt. Kirk Reese said. "We are getting phone calls and inquiries from across the entire nation."

Reese said troopers are ready for the solar eclipse on April 8. Erie is one of the spots in the path of totality with the best view. State police said they are preparing for up to 250,000 visitors.

"We are going to try to put cars everywhere possible on the roadways," Reese said. "And not only interstates because we know as soon as the interstates get jammed, everybody's electronic device will send them to a secondary roadway."

"We are enlisting the help of our aviation assets and, of course, the PSP boat will be out on Lake Erie for all the boaters," he added.

Reese of Troop E, which covers Erie, Crawford, Venango and Warren counties, said all troopers will be working and bracing for traffic trouble everywhere, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 79. 

"They are going to be coming across the Turnpike, up (Interstate) 79, and the roads are going to be busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But the roads will be overwhelmed when the eclipse ends Monday afternoon," Reese said. 

He said travel times could take up to four times longer than usual. After the last solar eclipse in 2017, highways were paralyzed. 

"In 2017, the path of totality went across the United States and it affected Tennessee and Kentucky. And my operations chief and I have been dealing with those state police agencies, and they said they had a backlog, parking lots on most of their interstates to up to 10 to 12 hours after the eclipse ended," Reese said. 

Reese said he's aware that drivers may stop on the roadways to watch. But he said that is illegal and dangerous.

"We are fearful that some people will stop on the roadway," Reese said. "So, we have been working hand-in-hand with PennDOT and other agencies. They are putting up signs along the roadways saying do not stop on the roadway. We have troopers stationed throughout all the interstates trying to move traffic along." 

He expects people will start arriving on April 5. Police said to plan your route now and be prepared. 

"It's going to come down to the individual driver and hopefully just a little common sense," he said. 

Reese says he expects the biggest crowds to be at Presque Isle State Park, Erie, and every location on Lake Erie.

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