Eclipse latest: Traffic heavy in some areas, some rest areas closed

SC State House crowds cheer solar eclipse

Columbia South Carolina experienced a total solar eclipse.
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Columbia South Carolina experienced a total solar eclipse.

This is a running list of the latest eclipse news in the Charlotte. It will be updated throughout the day.

What you’ll see in Charlotte

In the Charlotte area, the partial eclipse begins at 1:12 p.m. and ends at 4:04 p.m. with a max of 97.9 percent at 2:41 p.m. So, you should certainly have plenty of time to view the sun during that nearly three-hour window, even if there are some fair-weather clouds drifting in and out, according to WBTV.

Traffic troubles start early

Noon: NCDOT gave several updates.

  • Traffic on U.S. 23-74 in Waynesville is bumper-to-bumper for miles, moving at 15 mph.
  • There was a wreck reported on Interstate 40 westbound at Exit 44, west side of Asheville.
  • In South Carolina, the Highway Patrol closed rest stops on Interstate 26 in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties because they were full. Interstate 95 rest stops in Santee County were also closed.

Medic in Charlotte reported it has additional ambulances and 911 call takers working today for potential volume increase due to eclipse.

11 a.m.: Traffic on Interstate 85 west of Charlotte was backed up Monday morning, presumably because drivers are trying to reach the path of eclipse totality in South Carolina. Interstate 77 in Mecklenburg and York counties was moving at a regular pace at 11:30 a.m. But U.S. 21, which parallels Interstate 77 through York County, was already showing congestion at traffic lights.

The N.C. Department of Transportation's traffic maps showed congested traffic on Interstate 85 near Belmont and also between Gastonia and Kings Mountain.

The path of totality will pass just south of Spartanburg, S.C. at 2:40 p.m., according to NASA. That’s less than an hour and a half drive from Kings Mountain.

Recreation areas, beaches

The Shore Beach Service in South Carolina tweeted about 1:30 p.m., advising people to stay out of the surf between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. They warned of low visibility and increased marine animal activity. Sharks are known to feed at dusk, so they'll have an extra feeding period today.

Advisory issued on S.C. coast telling people not to be in the water from 1:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Low visibility and marine animal activity will be impacted by the solar eclipse, officials say.

By noon, Pawleys Island police reported that all beach access areas were full. U.S. 17 traffic from Pawleys Island to Georgetown was reported to be moving at a crawl, according to South Carolina Department of Transportation. .

Also by noon, all parking areas at the Lake Murray Day north of Columbia were full and entrances were closed, according to Lexington County Sheriff

Greenville police are taking special safety precautions for people planning to view the eclipse from the Liberty Bridge.

Parking lots in prime viewing areas were already filling up midmorning.

Officials at Gorges State Park in Transylvania County tweeted at 7:40 a.m. that the parking facilities had reached capacity and they were closing the gates. The parking lot’s capacity is 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles. The park has special viewing locations, live music, food vendors and live streaming of the eclipse.

South Carolina’s Highway 121 near Rock Hill was crowded but moving around lunchtime Monday. Steve Harrison sharrison@charlotteobserver.com

No roadside parking

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is warning motorists not to park on the shoulder of highways or interstates during the eclipse. Get off major roads and only exit the vehicle when you are in a safe place. Also, watch for pedestrians who may be viewing the eclipse.

Some NC offices closed

North Carolina Department of Motorized Vehicle offices in the southwestern part of the state are either closing at midday or are closed all day for the eclipse. The closings are due to the heavy traffic forecast for the area during the afternoon. To see if your community office is closed, click here.

Biblical warnings issued

The Rev. Billy Graham’s daughter, evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, has stated her concerns that the eclipse may be a sign of judgment.

“Jewish rabbis have historically viewed solar eclipses as warnings from God to Gentile nations,” she wrote in a blog. “Therefore, my perspective on the upcoming phenomenon is not celebratory. While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is.”

Her brother, evangelist Franklin Graham, tweeted out that he’s not sure what the eclipse might mean, but suggested praying.

“Throughout history some have associated a #solareclipse with a warning of God’s pending judgment. I don’t know if the #solareclipse is a sign of God's judgment, but may it be a reminder to all of us to pray.”

Muslim eclipse ritual

Many American Muslims will mark the eclipse with a special ritual prayer, according to Belief.net.com.

“It hearkens back to the Prophet Muhammad himself, who marked a solar eclipse during his life with this ritual prayer,” according to the site. “In fact, the eclipse happened to occur the same day his son had died and many of his companions remarked that the eclipse was in response to this event.”

The Prophet, however, denied this, according to Belief.net.com. His prayer: “The sun and the moon are two signs amongst the signs of God; they do not eclipse because of the death of someone, and so when an eclipse occurs, pray and invoke God until the eclipse is over.”

The next eclipse in the US?

The next total solar eclipse that will be visible in the U.S. will happen on April 8, 2024. The eclipse will move across North America from Mexico to Canada. Not until 2045 will a total eclipse go coast-to-coast in the U.S., as Monday’s will. It will go from northern California to central Florida.

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