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Kentucky: Lessons learned from 2017 Solar Eclipse


On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse moved west to east across the United States, covering fourteen states. This was a special event that required extensive planning by transportation agencies across the united states. It is important to look back at the 2017 Total Eclipse to see how state and local agencies managed the traffic operations for the traveling public.

The National Operations Center of Excellence will play an active role by being the facilitator in gathering the after action reports, action plan reports, and coordination plan reports. In six years, on April 8, 2024, we will have another total solar eclipse in the U.S. The totality starts at Mexico, crosses U.S. in a diagonal from Texas to Maine, and passes through Canada. NOCoE intends to be the main point of reference for transportation agencies by creating a national repository for the 2024 solar eclipse.

In April 2018, NOCoE hosted a virtual peer exchange where representatives from 10 agencies described their findings and observations about the 2017 solar eclipse in an online web meeting. As a proceeding to the peer exchange, NOCoE has created a dedicated webpage for each state to gather the agency’s lessons learned and findings on the 2017 solar eclipse. The below content includes the information gathered from the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky Preparations

  • Kentucky experienced Maximum Total Eclipse in the nation with the duration of 2 minutes and 40 seconds
  • How Far the Message Reached? Kentucky received visitors approximately 47 states, 25 countries.
  • The city of Hopkinsville promoted multiple solar eclipse events and was a popular eclipse viewing city among the visitors. Hopkinsville solar eclipse website:

Kentucky Information Campaign

Kentucky information campaign directed at specific groups:

  • Joint KYEM-KYTC General Release
  • Business
  • Truckers/travelers
  • Local Residents
  • Eclipse Watchers Coming to Visit
  • Traffic Monitoring & Reports

Solar Eclipse Quotes

Best one-line interview quotes:

  • When you pack for your trip include a 5 gallon bucket of patience
  • This is like the Super Bowl, but without a stadium

Quote of the Event:

  • In the end, we were grossly overprepared.  I will never apologize for being grossly overprepared. (Marshall Co. Emergency Mgt. Dir.)
  • Anytime you try to predict human behavior you’re just asking for trouble.

Preparing for the Unexpected



Up to 500,000 guests

About 300,000 guests

Arrival over 3 days

Traffic congestion on Monday upon exit only

Increased traffic on streets, in restaurants & stores

Most visitors drove in Monday morning

No school

Locals stayed home


KDOT’s Biggest Surprises

  • Local residents stayed home to avoid the anticipated traffic crunch
  • Worst traffic snarl was at the Interstate 69/Western Kentucky Parkway/Pennyrile Parkway interchange with 10-mile backup on the Pennyrile Parkway.
  • Traffic counts showed an immediate jump as people headed home from their eclipse adventure.
    • The Pennyrile Parkway north of Hopkinsville normally carries 14,800 vehicles per day. On Aug. 21, it carried 23,927 vehicles – a 60 percent jump in traffic for the day.   
    • U.S. 31E in Hart County– +222 percent – Biggest Single Jump
    • U.S. 641 – Marshall County +43 percent
    • U.S. 62 – Grayson County +123 percent
      I-65 – Warren County +44 percent
    • I-24 – Lyon County +37 percent
    • U.S. 68 – Logan County +122 percent

Operations Area of Practice

    Interagency Agreements / Cooperation / MOUs
    Planning for Operations
    Planned Special Events Traffic Management

Organizational Capability Element

    Freeway Operations
    Planned Special Event Management
    Local government/MPO/RTPA cooperation

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