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Fill your gas tank and prepare to wait. Some tips to prepare for the total solar eclipse in April

MISSION, Kan. –

Stock up on food supplies. Print directions. And be very, very patient.

Small towns and rural enclaves in the path of April’s total solar eclipse are bracing for huge crowds of sun-trackers eager to catch a glimpse of day fading into dusk across North America.

Tourism and community leaders on the path of totality from Texas to Maine brought extra fuel and port-a-potties and urged residents and visitors to be prepared. Some counties have issued disaster declarations to get additional help with policing and other relief efforts, similar to those issued after severe storms. And in Oklahoma the US National Guard will help.

Due to expected heavy traffic and other disruptions, hundreds of schools in states including Texas, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont are closing or moving to remote learning.

WHY ALL THE WARNINGS?

Look no further back than the last total solar eclipse in the United States in 2017 to understand the concern, said Tom Traub, who is part of NASA’s Eclipse Ambassador Program.

That year he traveled to Beatrice, Neb., where the normal population grew from about 12,000 to about 40,000 as eclipse watchers arrived.

“There were gas stations that were running out of gas,” said Traub, who is also a board member of the Martz-Kohl Observatory near Frewsburg, New York. “There were restaurants that ran out of food. The toilets were full and closed.”

This time, the best viewing locations want to avoid a repeat.

“They are largely preparing for a worst-case scenario,” he said. “And hopefully that won’t be the case.”

PHONE MAY NOT WORK

In Central Texas, emergency officials in Hays County recommend a “solar eclipse survival bag” filled with a cell phone and charger, among other items.

The bag should, the instructions say, also contain a printed copy of the map and a compass – “old-fashioned!”

The reminder to bring a fully charged phone — but expect possible signal interference — is common at prime viewing spots. In 2017, drivers used their cellphones to share photos and navigate traffic that clogged the towers.

“Make a note of important phone numbers just in case,” advises the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Austin.

Stock up on fuel and food

Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for groceries. That’s common advice from some Texas counties that have issued disaster declarations so they can get extra help dealing with the crowds.

Among them is Kerr County, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of San Antonio in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, where the normal population of 53,000 is expected to double or triple.

“Make sure your vehicles are full of gas, that you have adequate food supplies, that your prescriptions are filled and that you are stocked with supplies for all animals in your care,” said Rob Kelly, the county’s top official, who oversees the signed the disaster declaration. said in an online post.

In Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order this month to ensure the state is well prepared, emergency management officials are urging residents to fill up their gas tanks or fully charge their electric vehicles before heading out.

Traub suggests treating the eclipse like a snowstorm: “Brace up, get ready, get ready to settle down.”

At Serafin Food Market in Erie, Pennsylvania, owner Dan Serafin orders extra milk, eggs, water and batteries in preparation. “This is crazy,” he said.

PREPARATIONS IN THE AIR AND AT SEA

Smaller regional airports are also preparing for this. Additional fuel is being towed into Cape Girardeau, Missouri, said airport manager Katrina Amos.

The airport was caught by surprise in 2017 when the city of around 40,000 residents on the Mississippi was also on the path of totality.

Between 40 and 50 additional aircraft landed that day. “We didn’t expect that,” Amos said.

This year, volunteers have signed up to help park any additional aircraft expected. There will also be hamburgers and hot dogs, Amos said.

Offshore, the Coast Guard will patrol Lake Erie with boats; It’s on the trail and some boaters want to watch from the water.

Prepare for traffic problems

All firefighters will be on deck in the path of the eclipse, Dr. Brad Raetzke, an emergency physician in Columbus, Ohio, who is also the medical director of several fire departments in the area.

He fears eye injuries when people stare at the sun without protective glasses. And with all the additional traffic, there will probably be more accident injuries, said Raetzke.

In 2017, he traveled to Nashville, Tennessee with his family to watch the solar eclipse. The return trip took 15 hours instead of the usual six hours. “So I can understand the importance of planning,” he said.

In Erie, where hotels are near capacity, residents are being asked to leave the highways to visitors. Signs warning of delays are posted more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) outside city limits.

Traffic will “just be almost a nightmare once totality passes,” said VisitErie spokesman Chris Temple, who has been attending meetings for more than a year and is planning for an influx of visitors the size of the city of 94,000 could double.

Despite the hassle, the city’s tourism slogan to prepare for the eclipse – SHINE – ends with a reminder.

“Enjoy the moment,” Temple said.

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