Imagine planning a dinner party with an open invitation. You don’t know who is coming, how many will attend, when they are arriving, or when they are leaving. How do you make sure you have enough food, but not too much? How much seating do you need? Did I mention that this is the first time you’ve had a dinner party?
This is the situation we find ourselves in as we plan for the April 8, 2024 eclipse. One of the first questions I’m asked when talking about the City of Gatesville’s plans for the eclipse is “How many people are we expecting?” My answer is a solid “We don’t know.” We can, however, use information from experts on eclipse planning to try to estimate. Factors to consider include:
Location along the path - People traveling to experience the eclipse will want to be in a prime location. Gatesville will experience 4 minutes, 23.9 seconds of totality - one of the longest durations.
The accessibility of the area - US Hwy 84 and State Hwy 36 are expected to be popular routes, especially for those trying to avoid IH 35.
The population of the area - Areas with larger populations are more likely to attract more eclipse viewers because they have more lodging options. We also need to take into account that many residents will have visitors in their homes. In our area, the number of weekend homes and hunting cabins may affect the number of people who are in our area for the weekend leading up to the eclipse on Monday.
The weather forecast for the day of the eclipse - Clear skies are ideal for viewing the eclipse, so areas with a good weather forecast are more likely to attract more eclipse viewers. Eclipse chasers will check the weather the day before the eclipse then drive to a prime location that is also expecting clear skies.
The amount of publicity and promotion the eclipse receives - The 2017 total eclipse set the stage for a surge in interest in this eclipse. The October 14th annular eclipse has also brought more attention to the April 8th event.
Based on these factors and what areas like ours experienced in 2017, we’ve been told to expect two to three times our regular population. We think we could see anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 visitors. We are working to prepare for that by planning for traffic and public safety, encouraging businesses to stock up and staff up, and planning activities to make sure residents and visitors have a great experience.
Will 10,000 to 20,000 people really come to Gatesville?
“We don’t know, but we plan to be ready!"