Arkansas prepares for up to 1.5 million people to view Monday’s eclipse



(The Center Square) – Arkansas is in the path of Monday’s total eclipse and state officials are getting ready for what could be up to 1.5 million visitors, according to information from the Arkansas Senate.

Little Rock could experience total darkness beginning at 1:51 p.m. CDT, according to NASA. The partial eclipse will begin at 12:33 p.m. and could last until 3:11 p.m.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation said the eclipse is likely the largest tourism event in the state’s history. An 18-page document on the DOT website outlines a management plan for visitors and the 500,000 Arkansans who will likely travel to the best place to view the totality.

“To develop a conservative estimate of visiting vehicle trips, ARDOT assumed that all visitors will travel in motor vehicles and an average of 2.862 passengers will travel in each vehicle,” the DOT said in the report. “This would result in the influx of approximately 700,000 extra vehicle trips into the path of totality. To estimate the date of travel for visitors, travel patterns from the most recent total eclipse in 2017, which also occurred on a Monday, were reviewed. The review showed that approximately 30 percent of the sightseers arrived on the day of the event, and up to 80 percent left immediately after sunlight returned. The study team expects similar travel patterns for this Eclipse, leading to large increases in traffic volumes on ARDOT highways and the local road system.”

Dr. Michael Pakko, chief economic and state economic forecaster at UA Little Rock’s Arkansas Economic Development Institute, said in an article posted on the university’s website that the eclipse will have a big impact on the state.

“I expect that to generate somewhere between $48 and $105 million in value added or GDP (gross domestic product) for the state,” Pakko said in the article. “That could generate about $27 to $60 million in income for Arkansans from the increased business.”

The National Weather Service in Little Rock said in a briefing Friday afternoon that perfect viewing is not likely anywhere in the state.

“In the path of totality, there is currently a medium to high chance (50 to 80%) of viewing the eclipse the farther north you go, including portions of northern into central Arkansas,” the NWS said in its briefing. “There is a medium to low chance (10 to 40%) farther south.”

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