A swath of the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina was drawing a crowd Sunday in anticipation of the nation's first coast-to-coast, total solar eclipse in almost a century.
Nebraska was expecting more than 500,000 would-be astronomers from around the world for the two-minute solar extravaganza, the Omaha World-Herald reported. That's a big number for a state with fewer than 2 million residents.
Minneapolis residents Paul and Edie Auguston have been hunkering down in a campground near Alliance, Neb., since Thursday. Paul Auguston sheepishly admitted to the World-Herald that the couple expected a big crowd days in advance of the brief but historic spectacle.
“We thought there’d already be people here, and it was awful to find out that we were the nerdiest of the nerds!" he said.
The path where the moon will completely cover the sun will first reach the United States in the area of Salem, Ore., and sweep through a myriad of cities and towns on its way to Charleston, S.C. Observers outside this path will see a partial solar eclipse as the moon covers part of the sun's disk.
South Carolina is expecting as many as 2 million visitors to watch the eclipse Monday. It's the prime location for folks along the Eastern Seaboard, home to more than 100 million Americans. Charleston is the last big city that will see the total eclipse.
"For all practical purposes, we are booked," Perrin Lawson of the Charleston Convention Visitors Bureau told the The Post and Courier. Charleston County has more than 16,000 hotel rooms, he said.
Beach towns such as Edisto Beach, located about an hour southwest of Charleston, are seeing a boom in business. A group of friends from Maryland rented a house there for the week just to watch the eclipse.
"When we learned of the solar eclipse, the middle-age nerds among us were giddy with excitement," said Allison Leaver of Silver Spring, Md. "We couldn't wait for a trip to the beach together and the joy of inflicting true experiential learning on our nine teenagers.
"They're almost as thrilled as we are to be making the pilgrimage south for two minutes of total darkness," Leaver said.
Jenny Kelly, also of Silver Spring, said "It's a long way to drive for two minutes of astronomical awesomeness."
The mayor of McClellanville, a small town halfway between Charleston and Myrtle Beach said residents aren't sure what to make of all the hype, according to the Post and Courier. "We’re all sort of in the dark about what to expect," Mayor Rutledge Leland said, hoping the 10 port-a-potties the town rented will suffice.
In Oregon, a wildfire near the prime eclipse-viewing town of Sisters forced an evacuation order for about 600 residents, and another 1,000 were warned they could also be forced to leave, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities said two people died in a small plane crash near the central Oregon town of Madras, where about 200,000 are expected to gather to view the eclipse.