Safety and preparedness tips for the solar eclipse

Blair Fannin, Texas AgriLife Today

October 9, 2023

solar

With six years since the last solar eclipse, state officials are warning Texans to prepare for the Oct. 14 event as it is expected to draw thousands to the Lone Star State.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Disaster Assessment Recovery, DAR, unit, along with state emergency preparedness officials, urge individuals to be mindful of increased traffic and resources leading up to and the day of the event.

For context, in 2017, the last solar eclipse in the U.S., the state of Kentucky saw a 222% increase in automobile traffic while Tennessee saw more than 1 million visitors for eclipse events.

“In Texas, we are anticipating significant increases in roadway traffic, potentially causing delivery delays, as well spikes in fueling locations, hotels, restaurants and other venues as visitors position themselves for this unique event,” said Bryan Davis, AgriLife Extension DAR area chief south region. “Additionally, people should be prepared for more unexpected impacts like increased strains on cellular service.”

The annular, or ringed shaped, solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth, but does not completely cover the sun, is predicted to begin Oct. 14 at 10:23 a.m. and conclude at 1:33 p.m. It is best viewed from the west regions of Texas, according to officials. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has compiled state park viewing locations. It will be visible in San Antonio at 11:54 a.m. for approximately 4 minutes and 21 seconds.

Next year, a total solar eclipse event, when the moon passes between the sun and earth completely blocking the face of the sun, is expected to begin April 8 and will be visible from Kerrville at 1:32 p.m. for relatively 4 minutes and 25 seconds.

Reflecting on lessons learned from the 2017 experience, Davis advises that people wanting to view the solar eclipse should take these precautions.

a hand holding eclipse viewing glasses with the sun in the background.
Eclipse viewing glasses that meet ISO standards are recommended for viewing the natural event. (Stock image)

What to expect

Because the eclipse is a natural event that only periodically happens, many people love to make an event out of the special day. With that increased excitement, the people of Texas can expect:

  • Increased tourists and visitors.
  • Increased traffic.
  • Maximum capacity in hotels.
  • Decreased quality of cellular service.
  • Delays in supply chains and deliveries.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Davis said it is best to plan ahead and anticipate higher than normal traffic on highways and commerce at retail businesses. Here are some plan-ahead tips:

  • Schedule errands and appointments two to three days before the eclipse.
  • Fill up gas tanks.
  • Stock up trucks: Make sure oil and transmission levels are full and first aid kits packed as part of basic needs travel.
  • Buy and stock up on groceries.
  • Know local business and service hours as they might be closed early during the eclipse.
  • Have several forms of communication, not only cellular, and know the closest landline.
  • Be sure to check the weather.

“We encourage everyone to check the weather in their area prior to the day of the eclipse,” Davis said. “For example, the forecast for the day may be cloudy and the eclipse can only be seen 150 miles west. The weather may impact how you plan to experience the eclipse.”

What to bring with you

In the case that there will be an eclipse watching event, Davis suggests these items to carry along:

  • Eclipse viewing glasses that meet ISO standards.
  • Large amounts of drinking water.
  • First aid kit and any necessary medications.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and hat/visor.
  • Snacks and/or food.
  • Map and/or directions of the event area. Print hard copy to avoid bad cellular service.
  • Comfortable folding chairs and clothing.
  • Cash, many online operating systems could be down.
  • Bug spray and/or repellant.

In all, the solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon that only comes every so often.

“Make an event of the day, work from home or even take the day off,” Davis said.

Listen to the recent podcast episode Ag Law in the Field hosted by Tiffany Lashmet, J.D., AgriLife Extension law specialist, featuring Davis discussing the upcoming solar eclipse.

*Fatyma Lawal contributed to this report and is part of the Science Influencers program in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications.

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