Public safety and transportation officials in Maine say that Monday’s influx of visitors for the total solar eclipse was one of the largest they had ever seen — and they were ready for it.

“We had numbers that I don’t think any of us ever thought that we would have,” said Mike Smith, deputy director of the Somerset County Emergency Management Agency.

On Monday, Smith was monitoring conditions in Jackman, which boasted one of the longest durations of the total eclipse in Maine at about three and a half minutes. The so-called path of totality, where the moon completely blocked out the sun, combined with a forecast for clear skies across the state, drew thousands of visitors to northern and western Maine.

The Maine Department of Transportation estimated Tuesday that 15,000 vehicles came into Maine from out of state over the weekend leading into the eclipse, in addition to an unknown number of Mainers who traveled to another part of the state in the path of totality. The department expects additional traffic data to be available next week.

Traffic backed up on Main Street (U.S. Route 201) after the solar eclipse Monday in Jackman. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“We didn’t get the volume of visitors we get on a holiday weekend during the summer, but the visitors we did get were all headed to parts of Maine that don’t usually experience that kind of traffic volume,” Maine DOT spokesperson Paul Merrill said in an email.

Traffic volumes on some state highways were between 10 and 20 times greater than normal, the transportation department reported Tuesday.


Preliminary data shows that it was in Somerset County, up and down the U.S. Route 201 corridor, where traffic was heaviest both before and after the eclipse.

Leading into the eclipse, state traffic engineers observed the biggest backup in Maine on Route 201 northbound between Skowhegan and Jackman, with delays of about an hour, according to Maine DOT.

As people headed south after the eclipse, Maine DOT reported a four-hour delay on the same stretch of Route 201. Cars leaving Jackman around 6 p.m. took three hours just to reach The Forks — about 25 miles away.

Southbound traffic creeps along Monday night on U.S. Route 201 south of Jackman. Thousands of eclipse watchers from Maine and other states made the trip to watch the total solar eclipse. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The other most congested roadways included Interstate 95, Route 6, and Route 27, Maine DOT reported. Traffic mostly cleared by 7 p.m. Monday night, the department said.

Officials at the incident command center set up at the Jackman Town Office estimated mid-day Monday that about 10,000 visitors had arrived in the region. At that time, about 600 to 1,200 vehicles per hour were heading north on Route 201 toward the region.

Jackman and the neighboring towns of Moose River and Dennistown have a combined population of just over 1,000.


The estimate of total visitors could end up being higher once officials analyze more traffic data, Smith said. He said one police officer patrolling the region on Monday put his estimate at 30,000 people.

Viewers watch the total solar eclipse Monday afternoon from near the Jackman Town Office. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Officials also have yet to determine how many visitors went to The Forks and Bingham areas, farther south on Route 201, since they were focusing efforts on the crowded Jackman area. Those other areas had large crowds, too, which is part of what led to the back up on Route 201, Smith said.

“It wasn’t like we were just evacuating Jackman,” Smith said. “We were evacuating the entire corridor.”

Despite heavy traffic, officials said there were few major incidents throughout the day Monday.

“The Maine Department of Transportation’s goal was to get our customers safely where they needed to be for the eclipse, and that happened,” Maine DOT Traffic Engineer Colby Fortier-Brown said in a statement.

In the Jackman area on Monday there were only minor car crashes and just three medical calls, according to Chief Bill Jarvis of the Jackman-Moose River Fire and Rescue Department.


Cars lined the road near the rest area at the Attean Overlook view point prior to the solar eclipse Monday in Jackman. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

Several law enforcement agencies, including the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, the Maine State Police, the Maine Warden Service, and U.S. Border Patrol, had a visible presence in the region throughout the day to keep traffic moving and respond to incidents.

“They weren’t really needed, but it kept the crowd a little bit calmer, just having that presence and seeing that,” Smith said. “But I don’t think that was the intent of it. It was just to make sure that public safety was covered and everybody was safe.”

Jarvis, who had been developing Jackman’s public safety plan for years as the town’s emergency management director, said the detailed planning for every aspect of the day paid off.

People gathered at Pomerleau Memorial Park to watch the total solar eclipse Monday in Jackman. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

“Things went very well,” Jarvis said Tuesday. “Some of us were talking this morning about that the fact that all these people were here, but there’s not a lot of trash around. Most people said their interactions with the visitors were very good.”

“I hope everybody invited the eclipse folks to come back because they seem to be very good people,” he added.

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