Once-in-lifetime solar eclipse could cause epic traffic problems, service outages in Dayton region



More than half a million visitors could be headed to Ohio on April 8 to watch a total eclipse unlike anything seen in the state since 1806, and local jurisdictions are bracing for what some officials believe could be extraordinary traffic snarls and cellular and internet service outages.

Local cities, counties and other organizations already are making preparations to try to deal with high traffic volumes and road congestion and poor cellular service and Wi-Fi connectivity because of overtaxed networks.

Officials say the best things community members can do is avoid traveling that day if possible or plan ahead to avoid getting caught in potentially nerve-wracking or unsafe situations.

“We can’t know for sure how many visitors will come to Miami County, but we do know April 8 will not be your typical Monday afternoon in early April,” said Joel Smith, director of the Miami County Emergency Management Agency (EMA). “We are coordinating with public safety organizations, local jurisdictions, businesses and residents to think about the implications of a surge in visitors and the traffic that will ensue in the hours immediately following the eclipse.”

Once-in-a-lifetime event

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will pass over Mexico, the United States and Canada.

This will be a very special occasion. Total eclipses happen somewhere on the Earth on average about once every 1.5 years, but they rarely happen in the contiguous United States, says the Ohio Emergency Management Agency

The next total solar eclipse visible in Ohio won’t take place until 2099.

The total eclipse in the Dayton area will begin at about 3:08 pm and last 2 minutes and 42 seconds, said Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County.

Public Health says large crowds are expected to watch the spectacle, just like they did during a prior eclipse in 2017 that was visible from parts of various states, including Kentucky and Tennessee.

Ohio could see between 150,000 and 575,000 visitors, and the influx of people is expected to create heavy traffic across the state as people travel to the areas of totality prior to the event and then leave those areas to head home afterwards, said Sandra Mackey, public affairs chief with the Ohio EMA.

“While not considered an emergency situation it is a large-scale event we continue to monitor,” she said.



The Ohio EMA has been planning for this event since 2021, Mackey said, and the agency has been coordinating with federal, state and local partners.

Ohio EMA will activate the State Emergency Operations Center and the Joint Information Center, she said.

The agency has hosted eclipse planning meetings with county emergency management agencies and coordinates eclipse drills with its partners.

Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County said it’s possible there will be traffic jams that last up to 13 hours after the eclipse.

Out-of-town motorists may pack roadways they aren’t familiar with, including rural roads, which could cause problems. Cellphone and Wi-Fi services may be impacted by the large crowds, Public Health said.

During the 2017 eclipse event, some gas stations and convenience stores had troubles processing payments because their Wi-Fi networks weren’t working. Many people said their cellular, internet and GPS services went down. Some fueling stations ran out of gasoline and their shelves ran low of basic and popular items.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey


Dayton has not discussed making any formal emergency declarations, but the city is working across a variety of departments to ensure the day is safe for everyone, said Toni Bankston, a city spokesperson.

Dayton will have leadership representatives from multiple departments working together in an operations center on the day of the eclipse, including police and fire, said Assistant Chief Brad French, with the Dayton Fire Department.

“Staff will continually monitor traffic conditions, resource allocation and responses to any active incidents that occur in the hours before, during and after the eclipse,” he said. “While not in the centerline of totality, the city of Dayton is within the totality area and is anticipating a significant increase in visitors.”

Montgomery County’s emergency operations center will be on standby and ready to go and it may be activated, officials said.

Traffic congestion means longer drive times, and community members should fuel up their vehicles before April 8 whether they plan to travel that day or not because a large number of visitors could trigger a fuel shortage, said Deb Decker, Montgomery County’s director of communications.

Traffic headaches

Traffic will be the most likely problem and Interstate 75 southbound is likely to be very congested, said Smith, with the Miami County EMA.

“I think is safe to say we could see many thousands of visitors in Miami County on April 8,” he said.

Miami County EMA is encouraging local organizations to consider ways to reduce traffic on the afternoon of April 8, Smith said.

Some schools are letting out early that day or are cancelling classes altogether to try to avoid traffic issues and keep their students safe. Other organizations plan to take similar steps.

Miami County commissioners have decided to close all county offices that are under their jurisdiction on April 8.

Greene County EMA is mainly concerned with increased traffic on local roadways, which could strain local resources such as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and emergency services, said Ethan Raby, director of the agency.

Raby said Greene County EMA is encouraging local jurisdictions to plan for traffic congestion and increase staffing for emergency services.

But he said some local communities are used to these kinds of conditions since they host major events each year that draw large crowds, like Hamvention in Xenia and the Yellow Springs Street Fair.

“As for the concern about strained local resources, the EMA encourages local residents to take care of getting groceries, gas and other essentials a few days ahead of the eclipse because we may see a temporary strain or delay in getting these resources on the day of the eclipse,” Raby said.

Clark County

Clark County residents can take some preemptive measures to avoid inconveniences and other issues on April 8, said Clark County Emergency Management Agency Director Michelle Clements-Pitstick.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Clements-Pitstick encourages community members to complete errands and fill their gas tanks earlier in the week. She said also people who are traveling on April 8 should not stop on roadways to view the eclipse.

“Proactive measures, such as early booking of accommodations and transportation, and ensuring adequate supplies are on hand, are essential,” she said. “Leveraging traffic monitoring tools such as Waze or OHGO, alongside updates from local media and social media channels, will aid in navigating traffic patterns.”

Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County recommends that people begin the day with a fully charged mobile phone and that they carry extra powering devices, plus they should have some cash on hand in case credit card readers go down.

Public Health also recommends that people who travel on April 8 stock up on water, medications, snacks and other needed supplies to keep in their vehicles in case there are extended delays on the roadways.

Butler County

The Butler County Emergency Management Agency plans to activate the Butler County Emergency Operations Center on April 8 in anticipation of large crowds, planned events and high traffic, said Jim Bolen, the agency’s director.

Butler County EMA expects to see long lines for local services like restaurants, gas stations and grocery and retail stores, Bolen said.

“We are encouraging Butler County residents to fuel their vehicles ahead of the eclipse and to consider scheduling important events before Friday, April 5, or after Tuesday, April 9,” he said. “We recommend that everyone develop a communications plan with family and friends if you lose (cellular) service.”

Modeling from the Ohio EMA suggests that Butler County could see visitor numbers that are between two to four times the size of the county’s population (pop. 388,240), Bolen said.

“Butler County is great place to view the eclipse and we’re happy that people are interested in joining us for this rare occasion,” he said. “We recommend arriving early and staying late to avoid the traffic.”

Area hotels booked

In addition to an anticipated surge of out-of-state visitors, more than 7 million Ohioans live within the path of the eclipse and many area residents will try to find the best places to watch the celestial event unfold, says the Great American Eclipse.

Several hotels in Miami County are already booked, and others are filling up and are nearly sold out, said Leiann Stewart, executive director of the Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Eclipse events are planned across Miami County from Friday, April 5, to the evening of Monday, April 8.

“Our communities, many businesses, some local attractions and our Miami County Park District have been busy planning eclipse events and watch parties so we anticipate these will be highly attended by residents and visitors,” she said.

The eclipse falls on a Monday, and some people likely will visit the region over the weekend and stay through the end of the event, said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“It’s hard to predict exact numbers for Dayton — especially considering the uncertainty of Ohio’s weather in early April — but all indications are that we will likely see thousands of visitors coming into the area for what really is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Powell said. “It’s the first total solar eclipse in Ohio since 1806, the last one the continental U.S. will experience until 2044, and the last one Ohio will experience until 2099.”

Some local hotels have seen an uptick in bookings for the eclipse, she said, adding that the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will be the primary viewing location in the Dayton area. There are many other events planned across the larger region.

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