(NBC News) — Madras, Oregon and hundreds of other small towns across America have suddenly become tourist destinations for next Monday’s eclipse, whether they’re ready for it or not.
Casper, Wyoming’s population of 60,000 could nearly double.
“We’re hoping everybody kind of takes a deep breath and understands there’s going to be a lot of different people here from a lot of different areas,” says Jeff Goetz of the Wyomong Department of Transportation.
Most will be coming by car, which is why holiday-like traffic is expected along the path all across the country.
“There will be heavy congestion on the roadways and drivers need to pack their patience and prepare to sit in traffic for long periods of time,” says AAA’s Tamra Johnson.
Highway safety during the eclipse is a major concern.
“Make sure that if the eclipse is starting to occur and you want to watch, pull over to a safe location so you can do so,” Johnson advises.
Stopping on the shoulder of the highway, however, is a bad idea.
“When it starts to go dark, don’t stop on the roadway. Not only is it illegal, you can get a ticket for it,” warns South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper David Jones.
he spokeswoman for Experience Columbia S.C., the nonprofit visitors bureau for the South Carolina city that will be in the direct line of the eclipse, said, “We want to get across to anyone in the U.S. that we still have hotel availability in the metro area.”
Across the country, people are trying to determine where to get the best seat for the eclipse taking place Aug. 21, the first complete solar eclipse that will be visible from the contiguous United States since 1979.
This also will be the first eclipse to exclusively cross the nation, from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts, since June 8, 1918. It’s why this celestial event has been dubbed “The Great American Eclipse.”
The eclipse will be visible all over the country in varying degrees, but a total eclipse can be seen starting along a patch of Oregon beach, stretching 60-70 miles wide. That so-called path of totality then travels in an arc diagonally across the country, trailing off from a South Carolina beach.
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