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Visitors flocked to Oregon in August 2017 to watch the first total solar eclipse viewable from the contiguous United States in 38 years.The path of totality ran all the way across North America, but started near Lincoln City. Totality began on the Oregon Coast on August 21 at 10:16 a.m. PDT.And eclipse watchers were ready.

Oregon Crossroads Town Plans Emergency Routes To Bypass Eclipse Gridlock

Paul Brennan
PIxabay -
File photo. Emergency planners in Madras, Oregon, will close some streets in the city to serve as emergency routes for the August 21 solar eclipse and several days beforehand.

The clock is ticking. We're just days away from the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. But we'll learn sooner than that whether huge crowds cause traffic gridlock in the eclipse's path.

One central Oregon city is not taking any chances.

Many of the key highways to and from prime eclipse viewing spots in central Oregon converge on the crossroads town of Madras. There's a high probability of gridlock if the predicted eclipse crowds come.

Credit City of Madras
City of Madras

Madras normally has a population of about 6,700. But during the solar eclipse travel period, 100,000 people may pass through.

Madras Public Works Director Jeff Hurd wants to make sure police, firefighters, ambulances, doctors, shuttle buses, road crews and the trucks that empty porta-potties can get through.

"What we started talking about was, 'Hey, we need to have our own route,’” Hurd said. “It will be solely open just for us so we can get where we need to get in case of emergency.”

The essential services routes include two north-south corridors and one east-west corridor. Residents who live on the mostly-residential streets have been mailed passes so they can go to and fro. ?

Hurd said the closures of backstreets connecting the city center to the hospital, fire station, jail and public works yard will last from Friday, August 18 through the eclipse Monday.

Madras appears to be the only Northwest town to convert public streets into limited-access emergency routes for the solar eclipse.??

The city is almost directly under the centerline of the solar eclipse’s path. Numerous farmland and property owners in the surrounding area are temporarily converting fields into camping areas and event parking for the long eclipse weekend.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.