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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK


Eclipse traffic 'hangover'

Traffic has clogged the roads out of the West Country

A traffic "hangover" is bringing misery to thousands of motorists trying to leave the West Country after Wednesday's total eclipse party.

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Special report
11 August
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Bottlenecks on major routes are causing serious headaches for drivers more than 24 hours after an initial exodus caused a 70 kilometre (43 mile) traffic jam in Devon.

Traffic planners predict a further two days of problems as motorists flood out of the West Country at a rate of 3,200 cars an hour, causing hold-ups on the M5, A30 and A38.

A 10-car pile-up on the A38 at Buckfastleigh, Devon, caused a six-mile queue while the A30 was reported to be heavy with traffic all the way through Cornwall and Devon.

More holidaymakers on the way

Police, who are urging motorists to stagger their homeward journeys, fear an influx of holidaymakers this weekend will add to the chaos.


[ image: The eclipse lasted for two minutes, although for many it was obscured by cloud]
The eclipse lasted for two minutes, although for many it was obscured by cloud
A spokesman for the Exeter Traffic Control Centre said: "We are still suffering from a traffic hangover.

"We have had heavy flows all day and tailbacks of more than five miles in places.

"The traffic level is what we would expect on a normal holiday Saturday."

There are still an estimated 150,000 extra visitors in Devon alone.

Eclipse event planners had hoped visitors to the region for the first UK mainland eclipse since 1927 would stay in Cornwall and stagger their journey home, travelling between 7pm and 7am.

But thousands ignored the advice, and the region's Chief Constable, John Evans, predicted "more congestion than we saw on the way here".

The tourists boosted the county's economy by millions. The patchwork weather did not put people off the trip. But cloud cover was the least of some people's worries.

Helplines at eye centres were flooded with calls from people who feared they had damaged their sight by looking at the Sun. London's Moorfields eye hospital reported more than 300 calls after the partial eclipse in the capital.

Sun is 'getting brighter'

Although Wednesday's focus was on the dazzle of the Sun being obscured by the Moon, a scientist concluded after the eclipse that the Sun is getting brighter.

Dr Chris Davis, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, asked people to take part in a unique radio experiment to see how reception from Spain was affected when the Moon cast a shadow on the Earth.

During a total eclipse the absorbing layer of electrified particles created by sunlight are weakened. The particles are usually high in the Earth's atmosphere and reflect radio waves.

"By measuring how far radio waves can travel during an eclipse, we can work out the strength of the absorbing layer and therefore how bright the corona (super-heated outside layer of the Sun) is," he told The Daily Telegraph.

He concluded the Sun was getting brighter because, although it is "early days", he said "it looks like there was a lot of radiation coming from the corona".





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