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‘Pack your patience’ if you’re traveling to view the April 8 solar eclipse, NYS officials advise

This stock image shows a total solar eclipse. Rochester will be in the “path of totality” of such an eclipse that is to sweep across the country on April 8, 2024.
James Thew
Adobe Stock
This stock image shows a total solar eclipse. Rochester will be in the “path of totality” of such an eclipse that is to sweep across the country on April 8, 2024.

Gov. Kathy Hochul and her top aides on Monday announced the state’s preparations for the upcoming solar eclipse, which is occurring in two weeks and will be visible in 29 counties in western and northern New York. 

Hochul said while it promises to be a fun, once-in-a-generation event, people need to take some precautions — and be prepared for traffic gridlock.

State campgrounds will open early and are almost fully booked, she said, and there will be viewing events at state parks and historic sites. The Buffalo Bills have cut a special public service announcement, and the state has even compiled a special Spotify playlist — which includes the Beatles classic “Here Comes the Sun” as well as “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden and other songs by Jay-Z and Taylor Swift, among others.

“This is going to be great for our tourism,” Hochul said. “It's going to bring in thousands, if not millions, of people to localities all the way along the trajectory of this.”

While the entire state won’t experience totality, much of it will. The governor said locations include Jamestown, Niagara Falls and Plattsburgh.

“We’re excited,” Hochul said.

Kathryn Garcia, New York’s director of state operations, said if the weather cooperates, the eclipse promises to be a magical moment.

“It's going to be breathtakingly beautiful,” she said. “Everything transforms into twilight; there is a 360-degree sunset. Planets and stars will suddenly fill the sky. Birds and animals will go quiet and (there will be) a rare chance to see a solar corona, the sun's wispy outer atmosphere.”

NYS Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia details preperation for the April 8th, 2024 solar eclipse. Commissioner of Homeland Security Jackie Bray is at the far right
Mike Groll
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Kathryn Garcia, New York state's director of state operations, details preparations for the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse. At far right is Commissioner of Homeland Security Jackie Bray.

But Garcia said you need to take some precautions. By now, most people know that you can’t look directly at the sun while the eclipse is happening; you can permanently damage your eyes unless you use special glasses. The state is making free protective glasses available at several Thruway rest stops in the days leading up to the event.

She said if you purchase the glasses elsewhere, make sure they will protect your eyes and block out everything except the sun. 

“If you can see your hand in front of your face with the glasses on ... they're not good,” Garcia said.

She added that if you have kids with you, make sure they don’t look directly at the sun by mistake.

Jackie Bray, the state’s commissioner of Homeland Security, said they are treating the eclipse like any mass event, and are staffing up State Police and Thruway and Department of Transportation officials to deal with traffic management. More tow trucks and “help” trucks with supplies, including extra gasoline, will be on hand.

“We absolutely expect significant gridlock. You will be in traffic for several hours,” Bray said. “It is still an absolutely worthwhile thing to do, but we want to make sure that you stay patient.”

Bray recommended making use of the state’s 511 number for advice about alternative routes if the roads are clogged. And she said if you are traveling to western or northern New York for the eclipse, it may be better to come a day early for the event and stay a day late.

She said cellphone service might be overloaded at times during the event, but she said 911 will work.

For those who are trying to go about their normal day, Bray recommends working from home if you can and consider canceling any scheduled appointments.

On the day of the eclipse, Hochul said you should plan to get to your destination early, stay late to avoid the traffic jams — and bring snacks.

The total eclipse is the first one visible in New York since 1925. There won’t be another until 2079.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.