How officials want you to prepare for your solar eclipse trip to southeast Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — We’re now less than a week away from a near-total solar eclipse. Thousands from around the country, and the world, will soon begin their trek to southeast Oklahoma which is in the path of totality.

Safety officials stress you may not have cell service out in the area. You could get lost, so it’s time to go old school and pack a map.

“Cell service is going to be overloaded in an area that is not used to the number of people that are going to be down there,” said Shelley Zumwalt, with the Oklahoma Department of Tourism.

The tourism department expects 60,000 to 70,000 people to converge on McCurtain County for next Monday’s solar eclipse. That’s twice the size of its population.

The state also expects the area to see more than $7.4 million a day over the weekend and on April 8.

“This is a tremendous thing for this area,” said Zumwalt.

The state’s biggest concern is traffic.

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“The problem is going to be the exiting traffic all leaving at the same time,” said DPS Commissioner Tim Tipton.

If you’re behind the wheel, 100% of your focus should be on the road.

“In southeastern Oklahoma in particular, we have a lot of rural two lane highways that don’t have a safety shoulder on them. So there is nowhere to pull off,” said Tim Gatz, the Exec. Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“Just make sure you don’t stop on the roadway,” said Lt. Col. Joe Williams with OHP. “We don’t want people jamming traffic because it’s going to cause a collision.”

Officials also want you to fill up your tank ahead of time and expect traffic.

To help with flow, OHP said oversized loads are suspended Sunday and Monday.

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If you get into a crash, get off the road if you can and exchange information.

“Expect first responders to take a little longer than normal to reach a situation that might develop. So we’ve got to really have that awareness,” said Gatz.

If you’re driving to the area, ODOT and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) want you to be aware of some ongoing construction projects.

State Highway 109, directly south of the town of Fort Townsend, will be closed for a bridge replacement project.

There is also an ongoing bridge replacement along Highway 71, just 2.5 miles north of the Oklahoma-Texas border/Red River. The area is narrowed to one lane in both directions, however, Gatz said it is a short construction zone.

The OTA said the Indian Nation Turnpike will also be narrowed to one lane in each direction near the town of Daisy.

As a reminder, the Indian Nation Turnpike has not yet been converted into a plate-pay system. It still accepts cash tolls.

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