Recently members of the Arkansas Legislative Council heard from several state agencies who are currently making plans for the 2024 Solar Eclipse.
This astronomical phenomenon, where the moon will cast a shadow over the sun, is expected to create a 117.9-mile-wide path of totality. The shadow will touch down in the southwest tip of Arkansas near De Queen at 1:46 PM and journey northeastward, exiting the state near Pocahontas at approximately 2:00 PM. For those lucky enough to be in the center of the path, a mesmerizing four minutes of total darkness will unfold.
What makes this event particularly noteworthy is the anticipation that it will become the largest tourism event in Arkansas history. With up to 1.5 million visitors from outside the state and an additional 500,000 Arkansans expected to travel to the path of totality, the influx of approximately two million people poses unprecedented challenges and opportunities for the Natural State.
State agencies have been diligently crafting plans to address the multifaceted implications of this gathering. The Arkansas State Police is strategically deploying troopers across the state, with supervisors instructed not to approve time off on the day of the eclipse. The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management is coordinating contingency plans with various state agencies, ensuring a swift and coordinated response to any unforeseen situations.
Arkansas State Parks are set to welcome an estimated 83,000 visitors during the eclipse. With 20 of the 21 state parks in the path of totality already sold out for the required four-night minimum stay, it’s evident that enthusiasts are eager to immerse themselves in this celestial spectacle.
The Arkansas Department of Health, in collaboration with ambulance and hospital associations, is addressing potential emergency scenarios, while the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) has released a comprehensive Traffic Management Plan to guide public officials in managing the expected surge in traffic volumes.
For businesses and employees, flexibility is key. Where possible the ARDOT is encouraging remote work, adjusting schedules, and exploring alternative means of commuting can help alleviate congestion and ensure a smoother experience for everyone involved.
With meticulous planning and community cooperation, the Natural State is poised to not only witness a spectacular solar eclipse but to eclipse expectations in managing this astronomical event.