The 2017 Eclipse, or “The Great American Eclipse,” as it’s being called, will be one of the greatest astronomical events of this century, potentially witnessed by as many as 200 million people. And officials are warning residents in the 70-mile wide path of totality that throngs of out-of-towners will converge on small communities ill-equipped to handle them, leading to chaos.
As Buzzfeed reported, officials in 12 states in the nearly 70-mile-wide path of totality are warning residents of gas shortages, food and water shortages, hours-long traffic jams, and other possible catastrophes. In some places, residents are being advised to stock up on food and fill up their gas tanks before the tourists empty the stores and clog the roads. Other places are deploying emergency management procedures.
The problem is that many of the better viewing spots for the eclipse are in rural areas with little infrastructure, two-lane roads, and other limitations. When 100,000 people are crammed into a county with a normal population of around ten thousand, things are going to get hairy.
Oregon has a population of around four million, and is expecting another million in tourists the weekend before the August 21 eclipse, effectively raising the population of The Beaver State by 20 percent for a few days.
Many of those tourists will be camping, and starting campfires. Late August is the height of fire season in Oregon, and the state’s Governor, Kate Brown, has deployed the National Guard to help fight fires, should any break out.
Neither of the Show Me State’s two largest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, are in the path of totality, although it passes through the suburbs of both places. In Franklin and Jefferson Counties, west of St. Louis and along one of Missouri’s main traffic arteries, Interstate 44, officials are predicting hours-long traffic delays. The Missouri Department of Transportation boils down their advice to three points: get to where you’re going early (it’s a work day and a school day in Missouri), stay put during the eclipse, and don’t plan on being able to get out of town until hours after it’s over.
Kentucky, West Virginia, and the Carolina’s
If officials in the West are concerned about wildfires due to dry conditions and the eclipse occurring during wildfire season, the eastern half of the eclipse path has the opposite problem: flooding. Although it’s far too early to predict weather for August 21, summer thunderstorms are quite capable of popping up in late August in places east of the Mississippi River.
If area streams and rivers flood, it’s going to be a nightmare getting everybody to safety, particularly on rural roads not designed to handle the kind of traffic officials are expecting.
If you live, work, or go to school in the path of totality, you are encouraged to take some common-sense precautions. Stock up on food, toilet paper, and other vital supplies NOW, before tourists scrape your store shelves bare. Fill up you car with gas the week before, so you won’t have long lines at the gas station. Try to avoid driving if at all possible.
You can use this interactive map to see how much totality you can expect in your location (if you live in the United States, that is), and to find the nearest area experiencing totality to you.
[Featured Image by Maxal Tamor/Shutterstock]