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'Stay home': NE Ohio officials warn of traffic congestion during April 8 total solar eclipse

Officials from various agencies take part in a virtual press conference about the upcoming total solar eclipse on Feb. 13, 2024.
Summit County Executive Office
Officials from various agencies take part in a virtual press conference about the upcoming total solar eclipse on Feb. 13, 2024.

Millions of people are expected to travel to Northeast Ohio to be in the path of totality for the April 8 total solar eclipse. Northeast Ohio businesses are already planning events to commemorate it.

But some emergency management officials are shining light on a different message: staying home.

“We’re telling everyone to stay home,” Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said. “Watch the eclipse at home, and let your guests sleep on the couch, but make sure that you just keep everyone safe.”

Skoda and other local officials discussed eclipse preparations in a virtual panel hosted by Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro’s office on Tuesday.

They did not have an exact prediction for how many people are expected to travel to the region, but Shapiro’s Chief of Staff Greta Johnson said Summit County’s population is expected to “significantly increase” that day.

Ohio is expected to be one of the top three states to travel to, Tommy Scoot of the Summit County Emergency Management Agency added.

On top of that, more people are already expected on the roads to get to parks, science museums and even the Cleveland Guardians home opener happening later in the day, he said.

He warned of road closures across the state and urged drivers to check for alternate routes ahead of time.

Johnson encouraged anyone planning to attend an event to walk or bike if they can. Akron METRO RTA is offering free rides that day.

Aside from concerns about traffic crashes and pedestrian safety, Skoda also said health officials are worried about eye injuries. She warned residents not to look directly at the eclipse and to wear ISO 12312-2 eclipse glasses to stay protected.

If people are having guests over to watch the eclipse, Skoda said to be mindful of parking.

“You have to be careful, if you have septic or a well, where you let people park in your yard. You could unintentionally crush your septic system,” Skoda said.

Some people may be wondering how much of the eclipse Northeast Ohioans will be able to see if April 8 turns out to be a cloudy day, as is often the case that time of year, National Weather Service Meteorologist Freddie Ziegler said.

Early predictions suggest there could be 70 to 80 percent cloud coverage that day, he added, but Northeast Ohioans can count on still seeing some of the eclipse.

“I do believe in a total eclipse situation at total cloud cover, you’re going to see significant differences, even if we have cloud cover and it’s an overcast sky,” Ziegler said.

Officials added that they’re excited for the eclipse, which may be the only one of this kind that most people will see in their lifetime. The next time Ohio is expected to be in the path of totality is 2099, said Allen Turner of the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Still, officials are most concerned about safety, Johnson said.

“We want to encourage everyone, again, to come early, stay late, enjoy the eclipse safely and from your home,” Johnson said.

NASA predicts the path of totality of the eclipse will occur in Northeast Ohio around 3:15 p.m. on April 8.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.