Authorities Planning For August 21st Solar Eclipse

Globe showing the path of the solar eclipse and the percentage of obscuration that each region in North America is likely to see. Image credit Sky and Telescope

Are you planning on traveling for the August 21st solar eclipse? If so, you’re not alone. States along the 60-mile-wide path in which the total solar eclipse will be visible expect an extraordinarily large influx of visitors and are making plans to suit. In fact, Newsweek says these preparations are on the scale that is normally only reserved for a national disaster.

Severe congestion along major highways is expected. So is a shortage of Port-a-Potties. Expect ride sharing with Uber and Lyft to be sorta pricey; in fact, you may wish to look into a rental car or consider driving instead of flying. Major hotels are already completely booked. AirBnB venues are going for as high as $1,000 a night.

Venues are already preparing in advance and cities like Jackson, Wyoming, have hired eclipse coordinators to help manage preparations for the event. A museum in Columbia, South Carolina, has ordered 5,000 bottles of water in anticipation of a level of demand for drinking water that will be unprecedented outside a major disaster. Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park has reserved an additional 200 portable toilets for the event. Local hospitals are making preparations for an upswing in emergencies such as heatstroke and car crashes, as well as arranging alternative forms of communication in case cell phone towers are overwhelmed and warning travelers to the path of totality to be prepared for the late summer heat.

A spokesman for National Construction Rentals, a nationwide company that rents Port-a-Potties, said of the expected upswing in demand for its products, We advise customers not to spend too much time in our portable toilets on the actual date of August 21, or they may miss this very brief but memorable event.”

(Not that anyone would want to linger in a Port-a-Potty, am I right?)

Due to the expected congestion, camping at the site at which you intend to view the eclipse is recommended. If that’s not possible, or if you just hate camping, make sure you plan to leave your hotel practically as soon as you wake up and snarf some breakfast to give yourself the best chance of getting to your destination on time. Authorities have recommended packing drinks and snacks in a cooler in case you get stuck in traffic for hours. (Do. Not. Pack. Beer. The traffic problem is going to be bad enough without adding a lot of inebriated drivers to the mix too.) Also, be sure to print off directions because cell phone service and GPS services like Google Maps are both likely to be overwhelmed to the point where emergency services are planning alternative forms of communication.

Is it really that bad, though? To give an example of the problem’s scale, Oregon has a population of 4 million people and expects as many as one million visitors for this event. A spokesperson for Kansas City, Missouri, says that preparations have reached the scale that is normally only seen during a major blizzard or a World Series celebration. The American Red Cross expects that the population of some cities will double or triple with the influx of visitors. So it should be no surprise that city governments and emergency services are concerned about the city infrastructure’s ability to handle the solar eclipse.

So…I told you so. Also, I hope you ordered your solar eclipse viewing glasses in advance, because local retailers are likely to sell out fast.

Orion Telescopes & Binoculars

Solar Eclipse Viewing Glasses

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