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PRINEVILLE, Ore. -- Despite the total solar eclipse still being days away, heavy traffic in Central and Eastern Oregon started mid-day Wednesday and continued into Thursday morning.
This is just the beginning. About 1 million people are projected to visit the state of Oregon to see the total solar eclipse Monday.
The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office expects about 30,000 people to arrive in Central Oregon Thursday, then 37,000 Friday, 44,000 Saturday, and 43,000 Sunday.
The vast majority of those people are expected to head out Monday afternoon and Tuesday.
In a reply to a Facebook query on its page, Prineville police reported at about 5 a.m. Thursday that traffic headed to the Symbiosis eclipse festival remains clogged from east of Prineville to the event in the Ochoco National Forest. Thirty thousand people are expected to attend the five-day festival that starts Thursday.
"Event coordinators are working fast to get people into the event, and will work all night and into tomorrow to do so. Please be patient, you will be there soon," police said.
Motorists were advised to stay in the their vehicles during traffic delays, to not drive in wrong lanes of travel and to "be patient."
There have been several motorcycle crashes that required that an air ambulance, police said.
Prinevill even changed its traffic lights to favor east-west traffic during the eclipse.
The Ochoco National Forest on Wednesday night tweeted a picture of traffic at a standstill on Highway 26 near the Ochoco Reservoir, east of Prineville. People were also standing alongside the road, waiting for traffic to move again.
Traffic at a complete standstill from Ochoco Reservoir heading east. People out of their cars relaxing. pic.twitter.com/DdurIZ9Qsp— Ochoco NF (@OchocoNatForest) August 17, 2017
Shortly before midnight, Oregon State Police said the backup on Highway 26 was 30 miles due to Symbiosis.
Oregon State Police tweeted two photos of a line of cars on Highway 97 in La Pine, and said the congestion was due to eclipse travelers.
In Eastern Oregon, Tripcheck showed heavy traffic Thursday morning on U.S. 395 from the community of Dale to Middle Fork Lane. Traffic was also heavy in the Burns area on 395 and around John Day on 395 and Oregon 26.
For months, ODOT has warned that the eclipse would lead to the "biggest traffic event in Oregon history." ODOT recommends travelers leave early, be patient and be prepared.
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