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Many eclipse visitors to northern New England pulled an all-nighter trying to leave

Traffic inches along southbound Interstate 93 near Franconia, N.H.
Traffic inches along southbound Interstate 93 near Franconia, N.H., on Monday, more than eight hours after the solar eclipse. Thousands of people had traveled to several rural communities in the state that were in the path of totality.
(Nick Perry / Associated Press)
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Thousands of visitors to northern New England communities in the path of the total solar eclipse were told to pack their patience for the trip. In some areas, they needed it for up to 12 hours after the event started, inching their way back home on packed interstates and secondary roads.

In New Hampshire, travelers were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic much of the way through about 2 a.m. Tuesday, clogging up southbound Interstate 93. Southbound traffic on Interstate 89 also was heavy Monday evening. Southbound traffic was backed up on U.S. Highway 1 in Houlton, Maine.

New England had clear skies and mild weather Monday, making for ideal viewing conditions for totality. In New Hampshire, people flocked to places such as Lancaster, Stewartstown, Colebrook and Pittsburg, near the Canada border.

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John Martin, who was visiting from Massachusetts, described it as a “creep and a crawl” near Franconia, where New Hampshire Route 3 feeds into the interstate.

Why would someone journey across the country to watch a total eclipse? Because it’s more than just an astronomical rarity: It may be the best show in the universe.

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“You’re looking at your GPS trying to get off of 93 to find something a little quicker, and everybody else was thinking the same thing,” he told WMUR-TV.

New Hampshire state officials had warned travelers that the return could be slow-going and encouraged people to stay in the area, which usually sees its most tourists during the summer and the fall foliage season, for a while.

“To our friends visiting from out of state, remember: there’s no sales tax in NH, so feel free to stay a bit longer!” Gov. Chris Sununu had said Friday.

Traffic also came to a crawl in other states.

In Paducah, Ky., which was in the path of totality, along with communities to the west in Illinois, thousands of people crossed the Ohio River after watching the eclipse. Post-eclipse traffic also moved very slowly in places such as southbound Interstate 65 in southern Indiana, and along southbound Interstate 81 in New York and Pennsylvania.

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