Traffic is slow along the entire Path of Totality. Google Maps

On Google Maps, a mass migration in progress.

Solar Eclipse 2017 was supposed to be notable for being the first major cosmological event to be widely depicted on social media. But this notoriously difficult to photograph celestial phenomenon has also spawned some striking images on Google Maps. Once the eclipse began to wane, armchair cosmologists began heading home in droves, creating a remarkable traffic pattern that almost perfectly reflects the Path of Totality.

The roadways in red and yellow follow the path of the eclipse. (Google Maps)

These screenshots were taken at approximately 3:30 p.m. EST, before rush hour revs up in most cities. Note how large metros like  Charlotte, Atlanta, and Dallas remain traffic-free, compared to the ribbon of red passing through St. Louis, Nashville, and Greenville.

Major roads in the western states are similarly clogged. CityLab staff writer Kriston Capps, who just a few short hours ago published a post entitled “The Eclipse Didn’t Trigger a Wyoming Traffic Apocalypse,” is now sitting in stop and go traffic in Wyoming. “Funny because *now* there is a traffic apocalypse,” he wrote in an email.

Heavy traffic leaving Salem, Oregon in both directions. (Google Maps)

The weekend likely acted as a buffer for incoming eclipse traffic, allowing for a slow, steady trickle of spectators. But with long drives ahead and work tomorrow, many of them apparently hopped back into their cars immediately after the sun reemerged.

Astronomers and photographers won’t be the only ones studying this historic day. They may be joined by city managers, traffic experts, and various other social scientists seeking to learn from this notable moment of mass migration.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Homes in Amsterdam are pictured.
    Equity

    Amsterdam's Plan: If You Buy a Newly Built House, You Can't Rent It Out

    In an effort to make housing more affordable, the Dutch capital is crafting a law that says anyone who buys a newly built home must live in it themselves.

  2. In this image from "No Small Plans," a character makes his way to the intersection of State and Madison Streets in 1928 Chicago.
    Stuff

    Drawing Up an Urban Planning Manual for Chicago Teens

    The graphic novel No Small Plans aims to empower the city’s youth through stories about their neighborhoods.

  3. Equity

    How Poor Americans Get Exploited by Their Landlords

    American landlords derive more profit from renters in low-income neighborhoods, researchers Matthew Desmond and Nathan Wilmers find.

  4. A woman walking outside in Minneapolis in January 2014.
    Environment

    Climate Change Will Not Make Us Nicer

    A recent study found that people who grow up in places with mild weather are more agreeable and outgoing. What does that mean in a world of climate extremes?

  5. Equity

    Why Can’t We Close the Racial Wealth Gap?

    A new study says that income inequality, not historic factors, feeds the present-day gulf in wealth between white and black households.