Eclipse chaos: Millions head to prime viewing locations

By Haley Velasco

Thousands of people sitting in traffic on a hot day? Nothing unusual for New York or Los Angeles. But the dozens of cities that are sitting in the path of total solar eclipse are generally small to medium-sized communities that will be inundated on Aug. 21 with hordes of tourists drawn to see totality, where a total eclipse will occur. The thousands of visitors will likely jam traffic and put pressure on infrastructure and other resources.

Here are five places in the path of totality and what they’re expecting before and after the few minutes of darkness hit:

Madras, Oregon - Totality begins at 10:19 a.m. PDT

Madras, which is now nicknamed Solar City, Oregon, will be directly in the path of totality. The town of 6,200 is expected to swell to over 100,000 as people flock to see the eclipse. The Madras Chamber of Commerce has warned visitors to plan and make reservations early as well as to bring essentials such as water, cash, and other items.

Madras is doing its best to not have any of the visitors leave hungry. Restaurants and other vendors have “increased inventories, extended business hours and staffing beginning on the Thursday prior to the Monday Eclipse. To enhance the availability of places to eat, there will be food carts and vendors at various locations around town,” according to the Chamber of Commerce.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - Totality begins at 11:35 a.m. MDT

On the day of the eclipse, the National Park Service has waived the fee to enter the Grand Teton National Park to try to reduce congestion. But National Park Service officials say they still believe that the roads will be gridlocked and are advising visitors to prepare with appropriate rations.

“August 21 is anticipated to be the busiest day in the history of the park,” according to the National Park Service.

Carbondale, Illinois - Totality begins at 1:20 p.m. CDT

About 100 miles southeast of St. Louis, the townspeople of Carbondale, Illinois, are bracing for the longest duration of “totality” during the day – clocking in at 2 minutes, 41 seconds. According to NASA, the town’s population could be upwards of 100,000 or more by the time it hits. That’s double the town’s normal population, even with the students who attend Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Nashville, Tennessee - Totality begins at 1:27 p.m. CDT

Since Nashville isn’t new to tourism, the city is prepared for the guests that are coming to Music City for the eclipse — city officials even created a hashtag, #MusicCityEclipse, to celebrate. But it’s still an exciting time for the city since it hasn’t been in the path of totality for 500 years.

In honor of the eclipse, the city is hosting a party in partnership with the Nashville Sounds and Adventure Science Center at First Tennessee Park in North Nashville, which can hold up to 10,000 people. That is coupled with the Music City Solar Eclipse Festival & Viewing Party at the Adventure Science Center, a popular children’s science museum in Nashville.

Charleston, South Carolina - Totality begins at 2:46 p.m. EDT

As one of the final places that will see the eclipse, Charleston will anchor the path of totality on the East Coast. In anticipation of a burst of tourists, locations around the city are offering special eclipse vacation packages, including island vacations and beach getaways. In addition to vacation spots, the city has created Eclipse on a Warship, which takes place on the aircraft carrier and warship museum U.S.S. Yorktown. On the boat’s deck, Christian Iliadis, chairman of the department of physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, will give a presentation on the science of the eclipse.

For more information, see the full checklist from the National Park Service on what to prepare in order to watch the solar eclipse at Grand Teton National Park. 

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