US braces for April 8 solar eclipse frenzy

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Communities in the United States along the path of the April 8 total solar eclipse are preparing for the year’s biggest astronomic event, with millions of visitors expected to brighten local economies — and snarl up logistics, AFP reports Tuesday.

An estimated 32 million people live inside the “path of totality” — under which the Moon will fully block out the Sun — with an additional 150 million residing less than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the strip, NASA says.Near the US-Canada border in Burlington, Vermont, which is set to experience the totality just before 3:30 p.m. (1930 GMT), many hotels have been sold out for months.

The few remaining rooms, which typically go for around $150 a night, show online prices of $600-$700 for the night of the eclipse.

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“I don’t know that we’ll have anything quite like this again,” Jeff Lawson, a vice president in the chamber of commerce, told AFP.

Lawson marveled at his city’s “incredible luck” at an opportunity “quite literally falling out of the sky into your lap.”

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If skies are clear, the small city of 40,000 could see its population double for the day, with visitors arriving by car, train and even private jet, Lawson said.

– Traffic jams –

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Preparations for the big day began years ago, Matt Bruning of the Ohio Department of Transportation told AFP.

He said the agency reached out to counterparts along the last major US eclipse, in 2017, and “one of the things that we heard resoundingly was it’s never too early to start planning.”

Despite those efforts, there will inevitably “be delays, there will be heavy congestion,” he warned.

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Businesses are leaping into the bonanza with special events and in Cleveland, where local officials expect some 200,000 visitors, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame plans a four-day “Solarfest” of live music.

The Perryman Group, a Texas-based research firm, estimates direct and indirect economic impacts of this year’s eclipse could reach $6 billion.

This year’s path of totality is about 115 miles wide, wider than in 2017. It begins in western Mexico, arches up through the US cities of Dallas, Indianapolis, and Buffalo, before ending in eastern Canada.

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