With the total solar eclipse falling a day after the conclusion of the Missouri State Fair, Sate Fair Community College fall semester classes beginning and some special events planned, Sedalia and Pettis County roads may perhaps become a traffic nightmare, according to local law enforcement agencies.

Sedalia is on the southern edge of the path of totality for the eclipse, making it a prime location for viewing the rare event.

“We can expect an increase in traffic either coming here to view the eclipse or passing through for another viewing location to our north,” Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said. “Many cities in the viewing path such as Marshall, St. Joseph and Columbia are hosting large events to attract visitors.

“I have heard most lodging facilities in the viewing area have been booked for months, with large numbers of visitors coming from other states and even other countries to be present for this unique event.” he added. “And being on the day after the last night of the Missouri State Fair, many of those patrons, workers and exhibitors will still be in town to witness the event.”

Bond said he expects a marked increase of people in town not only on the day of the eclipse but also before and after.

NASA officials have estimated that the population inside the path of totality may double Aug. 21, the day of the event, so Pettis County potentially can expect more than 45,000 residents and visitors that day.

“We will have a few extra uniformed officers on the day of the event,” Sedalia Police Department Cmdr. Larry Ward said. “Driver safety tips will be crucial.

“I foresee people pulling over or even stopping in traffic to get a good view of the eclipse,” Ward added. “If we can ask for motorist assistance it would be greatly appreciated.”

Ward and Bond both suggest drivers plan ahead and take alternate routes to avoid delays or potential accidents.

“Don’t try to view the eclipse while driving,” Bond cautioned. “Find a safe place and park first.

“Always be a defensive driver and watch out for other motorists who may not be heeding the advice,” he added. “Plan ahead and allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination and always have an alternate route you can take.”

Both departments will monitor the event as it progresses.

Bond said he expects a “noticeable influx” Saturday and Sunday as well as Monday morning for the eclipse.

Locally, changes in the sun’s appearance will begin after 11 a.m. lasting until about 2:30 p.m. with the total solar eclipse occurring at an estimated 1:13 to 1:15 p.m.

Ward offered a key safety point for all to remember.

“People are opportunists, just like we should always lock our cars and protect our valuables, business owners and employees should pay extra attention during the event and moments preceding it,” Ward explained. “Employees that step outside to get a good glimpse could be allowing opportunist thieves the chance they are looking for.

“Safeguard your property,” he emphasized. “This should be a neat once-in-a-lifetime event. Be smart, be safe and enjoy it.”

By Hope Lecchi | Sedalia Democrat