Total solar eclipse expected to impact food and fuel deliveries
It’s an event that could rival the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus for the title “Greatest Show on Earth.” A total solar eclipse will sweep across 14 states, including 10 Kentucky counties on August 21, 2017.
With the Hopkinsville area listed among the top 10 eclipse viewing sites along the path, state and local agencies are preparing for a massive influx of visitors during the total solar eclipse. They are urging area business to take steps now to prepare for traffic issues that may impact routine food and fuel deliveries.
“With NASA predicting between 100,000 and 500,000 visitors to the region for the eclipse, we’re urging businesses to think through some of the supply challenges that may be created by heavy traffic and several days of high demand for food, fuel and grocery supplies,” said Mike McGregor, District 1 chief engineer. “The time to plan is now.”
Businesses may encounter the following challenges during the influx of visitors:
– The impact of heavy traffic on the ability of employees to get to and from work in a timely manner.
– Potential long lines at fuel pumps limiting access to fuel employees need to get to and from work.
– Ability of vendors to deliver food, fuel, groceries and other critical supplies due to traffic congestion.
Max Arnold and Sons, of Hopkinsville, operate convenience stores and truck stops at 22 locations, most within the eclipse corridor. During early June, western Kentucky gets a surge of traffic the week of the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, and Fan Fair in Nashville. The Max Fuels locations start preparing about a week ahead of time by stocking staple items, such as bottled water, and by keeping fuel storage tanks topped off along the busy Interstate 24 corridor.
According to dispatcher Eddie Prevette, the company plans to make similar preparations during the eclipse, scheduling extra fuel deliveries at night when traffic is light. Prevette encourages area residents to treat the eclipse much the way they would an approaching snow or ice storm.
“It would really be helpful if our local folks could fill up early in the week before the eclipse,” Prevette said. “Most people can go about a week on a tank of gas. Filling up early will help area stores maintain a fuel supply through the weekend before the eclipse and into the next week.”
Several area restaurants have indicated they plan to stage extra food supplies nearby using rented refrigerated trailers.
While some area businesses like the Max Fuels stores have already developed strategies, McGregor says all businesses in the eclipse corridor should make plans for maintaining their supply lines and their inventory of high-demand items.
Transportation officials offered the following suggestions for businesses:
– Consider early and overnight delivery of critical supplies due to expected daytime traffic snarls.
– Consider increasing inventory of basic items with temporary storage space prior to the eclipse.
– Prepare for congestion and traffic jams.
– Consider flex work schedules to avoid expected difficult travel conditions.
– Encourage employees to have a full tank of gas prior to the time visitors begin to arrive in the area.
KYTC District 2 engineers have offered traffic control suggestions to several of the eclipse event venues across the region in an effort to minimize potential traffic snarls. Traffic engineers have also trained Hopkinsville police to operate traffic signal controllers manually so officers don’t have to stand in the middle of intersections to direct traffic.
“We want visitors to the area to have a good experience so they’ll consider coming back for a vacation,” McGregor said. “By helping businesses to prepare for a number of contingencies based on traffic expectations, we can help minimize the potential for eclipse-related problems.”
Over the weekend of Aug 19 and 20 and on eclipse day, Aug. 21, visitors and local residents alike can expect heavy traffic and long lines at grocery stores, restaurants and service stations. The eclipse in Kentucky is expected to last from about 12 noon to about 3 p.m. CDT with totality of just over 2.5 minutes along the main path.
The Transportation Cabinet will offer additional tips for both visitors and local residents in coming weeks. To remain informed about eclipse-related traffic and travel information in Kentucky, connect with KYTC at facebook.com/kytc120.
Additional eclipse planning resources are available at the following sites: