Carbondale bracing for 90K visitors for solar eclipse

CARBONDALE, IL – The city of Carbondale is bracing for thousands of visitors during the weekend of the 2017 solar eclipse.  The total solar eclipse takes place Monday, August 21st but officials with the city of Carbondale and SIU-Carbondale  have planned an entire weekend of events.

“Within the last 3 to 4 weeks all the hotels here in Carbondale have booked up,” said Carbondale Public Relations Officer Amy Fox.

She said the city is just finishing up some improvements to its downtown district and will be operating shuttles from a number of locations to help minimize traffic jams.  Fox says the city has been planning for the event for more than a year and is bracing for 90,000 weekend visitors. She encourages visitors to plan ahead and be prepared just in case they do get stuck in traffic.

Events taking place during that weekend include a viewing at the SIU football stadium that includes experts talking the crowd through what they are witnessing.  A host of educational events will take place inside the campus arena.  NASA will be broadcasting from Carbondale and some of the unused dorms are being rented to visitors.

Music, food, vendors and an eclipse comic con are just some of the activities being planned.  Additional cell phone towers are going up to try and meet the anticipated demand.

“Nothing like this has occurred in the United States, you know a total crossing from coast to coast in nearly 100 years,” said Vanessa Sneed, activities director for SIU-C.  “And that was long before the era of internet and social media.”

Carbondale is considered a prime spot for two reason.  The first is the length of time visitors will see the moon blocking the entire sun. It’s expected to last approximately 2 minutes and 38 seconds.  The other factor is that Carbondale will be in the path of another solar eclipse in 2024.

“It’s sort of the perfect storm of elements that come into play here,” said Sneed.

The only wild card is the weather.  If it’s cloudy the experience will not be what many are hoping to see.  Sneed said the good news is there’s typically not much rain in Southern Illinois in August.