Feb 2, 2024 - News

Arkansas ready to cash in on total eclipse

Data: ERA5 data via Copernicus Climate Data Store; Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The state's largest tourist attraction this year is only 4 minutes long but could temporarily increase the population by 50%.

What's happening: A total solar eclipse will sweep northeast across Arkansas from Texarkana to Piggott on Monday, April 8, between 1:45pm and 2pm.

State of play: The effectively one-time celestial occurrence will attract gawkers — and their money — but it's too early to say how large the economic impact will be, state tourism director Dalany Thomas told Axios.

  • Her goal is to convert visitors who come for the shade to stay for the light.
  • We want to show first-time visitors "everything Arkansas has to offer — all the outdoor recreation, all of the culinary adventures … all the arts and culture … and hunting and fishing, music and events," she said.

Of note: Arkansas' weather is a decent bet. Based on an analysis of data by Axios' Erin Davis, there's a historical 50% chance (or thereabouts) of cloud cover.

  • Locations north and east are likely to be more cloudy that day, the data shows.

By the numbers: Estimates of visitor numbers vary. The state Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is preparing for as many as 1.5 million out-of-staters.

  • A half-million Arkansas residents who live outside the path are expected to travel toward it.
  • There are 34,000 hotel rooms, 5,400 cabins and 6,400 RV sites within the eclipse's swath, Thomas said, not including Airbnbs or similar lodging.

What you should know: The path of totality measuring 60-70 miles will cross the state's southwest border about 1:45pm and throw De Queen into darkness. It'll exit about 15 minutes later near Corning in the northeast.

  • Several towns will get four minutes of shadow, while others, like Jasper, will receive only two minutes.
  • Campsites for all of Arkansas' state parks are booked.
  • Plenty of hotel rooms remain available, Thomas said, but bookings have increased in the past couple of weeks.
  • Many school districts plan to close April 8, including Fayetteville.
  • ARDOT developed a traffic management plan and is coordinating with local agencies.

Be smart: You should only look at an eclipse with proper eyewear.

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