Mar 5, 2024 - News

Arkansas preps for influx of tourists for solar eclipse

A photo of Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders standing at a podium with a sign reading "Arkansas Solar Eclipse 2024" and flanked by state troopers.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks Monday at the Arkansas Department of Transportation headquarters about the April 8 eclipse. Screenshot: Courtesy of ARDOT

Arkansas is expecting the best but preparing for the worst when thousands visit April 8 to witness a total solar eclipse.

Why it matters: "Next month's eclipse has the potential to be one of the largest tourism events in our [state's] history," Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news conference Monday.

Between the lines: She and others hope visitors will have a positive experience so they'll return, and part of that involves being prepared for severe traffic jams or a potential catastrophe.

Driving the news: The eclipse's path of totality will travel across Arkansas from its southwest corner to its northeast corner from 1:45pm to 2pm.

  • Between 300,000 and 1.5 million visitors are expected to travel to the Natural State for the experience.

What they're doing: A traffic management plan calls for suspension of lane closures and work zones on Arkansas highways and interstates April 5-9, and the Arkansas Trucking Association is working to minimize large loads traveling through the state.

  • The Highway Patrol and department of transportation staff will be staged in key travel areas with gas, food, water and the ability to deliver emergency aid using all-terrain vehicles.
  • Rest areas and welcome centers will be stocked with extra supplies, first aid kits and medical equipment, Lorie Tudor, director of the state department of transportation said.
  • The state emergency operations center will be activated "just to make sure that citizens and our visitors have a very safe and great experience," said A.J. Gary, director of the state division of emergency management.
  • Arkansas public schools received about 1 million pairs of glasses so children, parents and teachers can safely view the eclipse, according to Jacob Oliva, state education secretary Jacob Oliva said.

More than 100 of the state's school districts, including Fayetteville, will not hold classes on April 8.

What we're watching: It's too early to speculate on the economic impact the event will have, Shea Lewis, Secretary of Parks, Tourism and Heritage, said.

  • Yes, but: He appeared optimistic. Lewis recently did 27 media interviews via satellite that appeared from Seattle to Boston, and Outside magazine tapped the Buffalo National River as a place to see by canoe.

The bottom line: There are still vacancies at "numerous" hotels across the state, Lewis said.

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