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State officials ready for next month's 'historic' solar eclipse

The 2024 Solar Eclipse is one month away. On April 8, the path of darkness will stretch across the sky some 100 Miles, diagonally from Texarkana to Jonesboro, and across 53 of the state's 75 counties for a maximum of four minutes and 28 seconds.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation estimates that 1.5 million people will visit the state of Arkansas, with some 500,000 Arkansans coming from other parts of the state to cities within the path of totality. A.J. Gary is the director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, and said traffic delays and overcrowding are the biggest concerns.

"Just being aware of that if they need to go do something to do it early or do it later," he said. "So we could reduce that number of traffic that that's going to be out there during that time period."

In preparation for the historic celestial events, the division also developed a web portalto help visitors navigate their way around the natural state.

"During the Eclipse, we're gonna have a large number of people coming into the state that may not be familiar with some of the local resources," Gary said. "If a citizen was visiting that portion of our state that had never been there before. And they have an emergency, they need to find a hospital, or we have some weather and they need to find shelter, or anything like that, that they they can have one spot to go to."

The interactive map also provides a list of public events that are happening around Arkansas before and during the eclipse.

At a press conference earlier this week, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveiled the state's emergency plan for the Eclipse, which includes a limit to the number of trucks carrying oversized and overweight loads coming through the state and a road construction holiday with no scheduled road closures from April 5 through the ninth.

"Again, we're looking at every scenario," Sander said. "And trying to place resources, staff and needs in the places where we anticipate the greatest level of visitors."

At least 103 schools are scheduled to close for April 8th eclipse, to cut down on bus traffic. The Governor also said the Arkansas State Police will deploy additional troopers to identified bottleneck zones around the state.

Sanders said she expects the Great North American Eclipse to be the largest tourist event in the state's history. According to a news release from the Arkansas House of Representatives last month nearly 83,000 people are expected to view the eclipse from one of the 21 state parks located in the path of totality. The parks service set a minimum four-night stay for lodging and, according to the release, were at maximum occupancy by February.

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Daniel Caruth is KUAF's Morning Edition host and reporter for Ozarks at Large<i>.</i>
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