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Stoked on Solar

By August 21, 2017No Comments

Move over, sun. The moon is the star for the day.

Below is a small excerpt from an article by Megan Barber for Curbed. Read the full article here.

Solar eclipse 2017 and the tourism boom in its path

200 million people live within a day’s drive of the total eclipse

On Monday, August 21, a solar eclipse will travel across the entire United States for the first time since 1918. Astronomically, it’s one of the biggest events of the decade. And for towns stretching from the west coast of Oregon to the east coast of South Carolina, it’s also shaping up to be one of their biggest tourism events ever.

For the hundreds of towns in the path of “totality,” the sun will be completely blocked out by the moon for two minutes and a partial eclipse will be visible for about 1.5 hours. Millions of people across the country are expected to travel in order to see what happens when the moon aligns with the sun, creating a black hole ringed by light.

The impact of the eclipse on the towns and cities in its path can’t be overstated. Experts believe that up to 7.4 million people will visit the path of totality on eclipse day, causing potentially crippling traffic, boosting local coffers by millions of dollars, and resulting in what might be the greatest temporary mass migration of humans to see a natural event in U.S. history. This is the story of solar eclipse boom towns.

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Where and what’s happening

Eclipses happen every 18 months or so, but many are partial eclipses that can’t be seen well in North America. The hype about the upcoming eclipse stems in part from its rarity; it’s the first time a total solar eclipse has passed from one coast of the U.S. to the other in 99 years.

The eclipse’s path makes it accessible to a huge proportion of the country. While 12 million Americans live in the 70-mile-wide path of totality, some 200 million people live within a day’s drive. Yet many of the towns and cities in the path of totality are not large metropolitan areas. The fast-growing city of Nashville, Tennessee—the largest U.S. city in the path of the total eclipse—boasts a metro-area population of just under 2 million people, but most of the other towns in the total solar eclipse path are much smaller.

In total, estimates that between 2 million and 7 million people will visit the path of totality, and those numbers could easily grow depending on weather, traffic, and real-time conditions.

A mass migration: the impact on towns

With this many people, the eclipse will transform small towns into bustling tourist destinations. The town of Madras, set in the high desert of central Oregon, is being heralded as one of the premier viewing locations in the U.S. In its most recent census, Madras boasted around 6,660 people. During the eclipse “festival period” from August 17 through August 21, Madras is expecting over 100,000 people, and based on the traffic over the weekend, those predictions are looking fairly accurate.

Other small towns will see similar numbers. St. Joseph, Missouri, a town of 76,000 people, is prepping to welcome anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 visitors, while Clarksville, Tennessee (a town of 150,000), will see around 200,000 eclipse tourists. That many people can overwhelm local services, and towns have been preparing for years for the event.