Huge influx sees eclipse in state; skies favorable

Aug 22, 2017 By Mead Gruver, Associated Press

GLENDO (AP) -- Mostly sunny skies across Wyoming provided a clear view of the total solar eclipse, and while heavy traffic clogged roads and highways before and after the celestial event left lasting impressions both for residents and the hundreds of thousands of out-of-state visitors wo came to watch.

"It didn't make me cry, but it made me hoot and holler," Matt Nagy, of Laramie, said after the eclipse passed over Glendo Reservoir. "It was way more than I expected. When we first started talking about coming here, I was like 'all right, sounds like a good reason to go drinking,' but yeah that surpassed my expectations completely. It was a lot of fun."

Nagy noted that even his two teenage daughters were impressed by the complete blockage of the sun by the moon on Monday.

"The teenagers, they were just as shocked if not more," Nagy said. "It takes a lot to get a teenager excited about something."

The path of totality entered the state at Jackson Hole, passed over Riverton and Casper, and exited in the Lusk and Torrington areas, attracting astronomers, media and people from around the world. The temperature became cooler and stars could be seen in the sky when the moon covered the sun.

Cass Kvenild, of Laramie, said the eclipse is not nearly as impressive at 98 percent as it is when the moon total blocks out the sun.

"The hype is true," Kvenild said.

That hype resulted in traffic congestion normally seen in major metropolitan areas, not in a largely rural state like Wyoming.

WYDOT reported that traffic counts increased by 217,000 over the five-year average statewide on Sunday alone. Thousands more entered the state before Sunday and on Monday.

"I think we saw most of the visitation come from west, south and east," WYDOT spokesman Doug McGee said.

As soon as the eclipse ended, thousands of vehicles hit the roads and highways.

A cloud of dust rose from gravel roads around Glendo Reservoir as eclipse watches left.

Interstate 25 from Casper through Cheyenne, U.S. 85 and a number of highways in the extreme western part of the state saw the greatest congestion.

State troopers were forced to reroute traffic on U.S. 85 in Laramie County because of the heavy volume, McGee said.

McGee said he had not heard of any major crashes because of the eclipse traffic.

Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming reported lots of people as expected but no problems handling the crowds. The park was just one of two national parks in the nation in the path of the total eclipse.

Grand Teton waived its entrance fees for the day to help ease the onslaught.

Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said there was some traffic congestion but everyone was able to get into the park and find a place to view the eclipse.

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