AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texans are in for a celestial phenomenon Saturday as an annular solar eclipse crosses over the state. It’ll begin around 10:23 a.m. and culminate at 1:33 p.m., with full annularity and peak darkness set to occur around 11:54 a.m. — and the Texas Department of Transportation is anticipating plenty of traffic along Central Texas roadways.
“We’re gonna see a lot of traffic, a lot of congestion, so just be ready for it,” said Glynda Chu, a public information officer for TxDOT’s Austin District. “It’s all part of it. But we hope that people will make this a fun event for themselves and their families.”
The optimal viewing point will be in Junction, west of Austin along Interstate 10 or U.S. Hwy. 290, Chu said. TxDOT is stressing to drivers this weekend not to park on the highway or along the shoulder of the roads, adding that would be a safety issue that could impede traffic flow or emergency vehicle access.
She added it’s important to keep eyes on the road and to not try and look at the eclipse while driving. Once people find a safe place to pull off and stop, she encouraged them to bring specialty eclipse glasses to help protect their eyes.
The state agency has also gone ahead and mowed down vegetation as low as possible to the ground. If cars do park off the roadway in grassy areas, that will help prevent any fires from sparking, she added.
With heightened volumes of traffic expected, Chu added motorists should pack plenty of food and water in their cars, and to avoid throwing out any trash along roadways.
“You’re going to be in your cars for a long time,” she said.
In some more rural parts of the region, Chu said TxDOT anticipates up to a 200% increase in people in those areas compared to their standard population sizes. She urged caution for drivers as they seek out the best viewing point — especially if that involves traveling to a new area.
“People are going to be driving on unfamiliar roads, roads that are usually meant for less travel — maybe one-lane roads,” she said. “Really be extra cautious when you’re looking at those things.”
Drivers can use TxDOT’s Drive Texas map to help detect real-time driving conditions, possible delays and crashes in the area.
Before heading out, motorists should check to ensure they have a full tank of gas, air pressure levels are strong and they have any extra supplies they might need for the long haul.
“Approach it as a great event, a great learning event, a great experience, and be calm and courteous on the road,” Chu said. “Be ready for more traffic and try to enjoy this unique experience in Texas. As they say, you’re gonna have to ‘pack your patience,’ but it’ll be worth it.”