The Eclipse Could Create A State Of Emergency
This thing is gonna be big. Really, really big.
Although nearly every civilization in history has experienced a solar eclipse at one point or another, this one is special. Not only is it perhaps the biggest astronomical event of the decade, it’s also the first time in 99 years that an eclipse has moved across the entire continental US.
The area of the US where the moon will fully block the sun (known as the “path of full totality”) is only 70-miles wide. But — as NASA’s map above clearly shows — everyone in the country will be able to at least partially see the eclipse.
But “partial eclipse” isn’t good enough for, well, a lot of people. According to the US Federal Highway Administration, about 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the path of totality, and about 7 million of them are expected to travel to the eclipse belt for the event on Aug. 21. Considering that only 12 million people live in the area right now, it’s easy to see how local governments could quickly become overwhelmed.
For example, Oregon is expecting 1 million out-of-state visitors, which is a lot for a state that only has 4 million people in it to begin with.
Columbia, South Carolina has already purchased 5,000 water bottles to make sure visitors stay hydrated. In Wyoming, Grand Teton National Park rented 200 extra Porta Potties to deal with this shit (sorry, couldn’t resist).
However, putting water into people’s bodies and having places where they can let it out aren’t the only concerns. Mobile networks likely won’t be able to handle the influx of users. A cellular network is like a road: If nobody’s on it, you can drive as fast as you want. But if you’re one of 10,000 cars, there’s gonna be traffic.
To alleviate this, cellphone companies are being proactive. The Washington Post reports that AT&T is going to put eight portable cell towers along the eclipse’s path. Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile are apparently working on similar solutions.
Poor cell reception could affect your ability to post to social media, in which case, what’s the point of even being there? (Kidding/not kidding.)
The Red Cross is trying to get prepared, too. The organization is reportedly setting up emergency shelters in all of the states on the eclipse’s path to alleviate the added stress on local resources if some kind of disaster (a stampede, or a mysterious planet hitting Earth, for example) were to happen.
State governments are also taking steps to get ready for overcrowding. Oregon Governor Kate Brown has asked the Oregon National Guard to step in and help with all of the expected visitors.
Despite these concerns, this eclipse could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The total eclipse will only last two or three minutes, but The Atlantic reports that the entire event from coast to coast will take an hour and a half. If you live near the path of totality, you should check out Time’s list of when the eclipse will hit each state.
If you plan to travel, make sure to think ahead. The Federal Highway Administration has a list of recommendations for safe driving. For example, keep your headlights on at all times. And don’t wear your eclipse sunglasses while driving. (Duh.)