ECLIPSE: Hundreds of thousands will be traveling to 'path of totality'

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 12, 2017 6:20 pm

Tourism and transportation officials expect hundreds of thousands of people to travel to the "path of totality" in Missouri and Illinois during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

Some of those people are coming from, or through, Quincy in a quest to experience the total eclipse, which will be visible in a 70-mile-wide swath running diagonally across mid-Missouri and southern Illinois. Outside of the totality zone, a partial eclipse will be visible.

Diane Kasparie, a science teacher at Quincy Notre Dame, is planning to take a small group of students on a field trip to the path of totality. She said they will probably head to Columbia, Mo., "or anywhere near there."

The total eclipse in the Columbia area is expected to last nearly 2 minutes and 37 seconds starting at 1:12 p.m.

The QND students signed up for the trip last spring while Kasparie focused a portion of her astronomy class on the eclipse. She feels the Aug. 21 event will be an important learning opportunity, especially in the path of totality.

"I would like to have my students in the zone so they can at least experience the darkness," she said. "You really hope that your kids can take advantage of it when the opportunity arises."

Mecki Kosin of Quincy said her youngest brother and his family are coming from Germany to experience the total eclipse. The family will be stopping in Quincy first to pick up Kosin's nephew, Johannes Karg, who spent the past year at QND as a foreign exchange student.

"They could have picked him up anytime since the first of June, but they're coming at this time because of the eclipse," Kosin said.

After departing Quincy, Kosin said, Winfried and Inge Karg will drive Johannes and his three siblings to southern Illinois -- somewhere in the vicinity of Carbondale -- to watch the total eclipse.

Surge in Carbondale

Carbondale is expecting a major surge of visitors on Aug. 21 because an area just south of there -- around Makanda and Giant City State Park -- will experience the longest duration of totality anywhere in the United States: 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds.

"Carbondale has gone gangsbusters in their marketing" of the eclipse, said Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is expecting up to 200,000 people to visit southern Illinois to take part in eclipse-related events.

Many other communities along the path of totality also are expecting big increases in tourism, including Columbia, Jefferson City and St. Joseph, Mo.

"It's great for those communities," Cain said. "It's getting people to come for a natural event that lasts a few minutes."

While hotels in St. Joseph have been booked solid for months, local hotel operators so far haven't seen a big surge in people booking rooms in Quincy to watch the partial eclipse here or to travel on to the path of totality.

"If it's going to happen, it hasn't yet," said Dax Fohey, president of the Quincy Area Hotel-Motel Association and manager of the Town and Country Inn and Suites. "I hope it happens, and maybe it will as the eclipse gets closer."

Riding the rails

The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation is partnering with the Zephyr Route to bring about 50 passengers from Chicago to LaPlata, Mo., in a 1950s vintage dome railroad car attached to the back of Amtrak's Southwest Chief passenger train.

After spending Aug. 20 touring the Kirksville, Macon and Marceline areas, the visitors will hop aboard a motorcoach on Aug. 21 and head to a site near Columbia for an eclipse-viewing party before heading back to Chicago. Robert Taburn, the foundation's vice president, said an astronomer-scientist from the Chicago area will travel with the group to provide eclipse insights.

Many people who live in the Tri-State area say they aren't doing anything extraordinary to watch the celestial event.

Lyndon Bode, presiding commissioner of the Marion County Commission, said the commission will hold its usual weekly meeting that Monday morning in Palmyra, Mo. Then Bode is going to don his solar glasses and take an occasional glimpse at the partial eclipse during the early afternoon.

"We're not going to travel outside of the county. We're staying right here," he said.

"We're not going to be one of those traveling to Jeff City or anything like that. The partial eclipse will be good enough for me. We'll see what we can see from Marion County and hope for a nice, clear day."

Bode said his brother, Lawrence, who also lives in Marion County, has some friends coming up from Texas specifically for the eclipse.

"They're going to stay in Jeff City or somewhere, then they're going to visit him after the eclipse," Bode said. "They're anticipating quite a crowd in Jeff City. It's a good tourist thing."

The Missouri State Highway Patrol, IDOT and other state agencies in Missouri and Illinois are cautioning motorists to be prepared for traffic jams at certain locations around the path of totality before, during and after the eclipse.

They advise travelers to leave early to get to their desired viewing locations and to be watchful for vehicles parked along roadsides and for pedestrians gazing at the sky.

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