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Safety tips for watching solar eclipse in Texas

Texans should start preparing for April 8 event

More than 1 million people from around the state, country and world are expected to travel to prime eclipse viewing locations, including state parks and around cities like Kerrville and Sulphur Springs. (Michael Miller/Texas A&M AgriLife)

The total solar eclipse is a large-scale natural phenomenon that Texans have not seen since 2017. Something so rare and intriguing is one that will certainly draw the attention of people far and wide within the coming weeks, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

As people begin to make plans to travel across the state for eclipse watching events, AgriLife Extension’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.

Bryan Davis, AgriLife Extension DAR area chief South Region, Seguin, said more than 1 million visitors are expected to flock to areas along the eclipse path. Populations in some small towns and rural counties are expected to balloon into the hundreds of thousands of people.

“Because there will be such a sudden influx of much higher volumes of people and traffic, we want to make sure everyone is thinking about the little things that will help make this a good experience,” he said. “We want residents to be prepared for visitors, and we want the visitors to be prepared for locations and situations they may be unfamiliar with.”

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the moon will start to block the sun along its track around noon on April 8 and will be visible for up to 4 minutes and 25 seconds in optimal viewing locations in Texas. While the timing of the event may be relatively short, safety measures for the event are strongly recommended for viewers everywhere.

Plan ahead for increased traffic and crowds
It is inevitable, with a natural phenomenon of this caliber, that people from far and wide will make the trek to parts of the state to experience optimal viewing of the total solar eclipse.

With that in mind, Davis recommends a few ways for residents to prepare for the big event:

  • Anticipate higher traffic on highways and increased crowds at tourist destinations and hotels.
  • Schedule errands and appointments in advance of April 8.
  • Fuel up gas tanks and stock up on essential groceries beforehand.

Be prepared for potential disruptions

Along with the need for anticipating large crowds gathering across the state, Davis suggests Texans should also anticipate and plan for other possible delays including:

  • Expect decreased cellular service in highly populated areas and have multiple forms of communication.
  • Expect potential delays in supply chains and deliveries.
  • Know local business hours, as some may close early during the eclipse.
  • Check the weather forecast beforehand.

Pack the essentials

Davis also suggests specific items that will be important to bring with you should you attend an eclipse watching event:

  • Bring eclipse viewing glasses that meet ISO standards.
  • Carry plenty of drinking water, a first-aid kit, and any necessary medications.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats for sun protection.
  • Pack snacks or food, comfortable clothing, and chairs for comfort during the viewing.
  • Bring cash in case online payment systems may become unavailable.
  • Bring bug spray repellant.
The total solar eclipse is expected to last more than 4 minutes as it tracks across the Texas sky on April 8, which makes this viewing event special. (Michael Miller/Texas A&M AgriLife)

Check viewing locations and times
Finding the right location to view the eclipse safely is another thing viewers should consider, Davis said.

Here’s a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Identify prime viewing spots. You can consult the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for state park viewing locations.
  • Note the specific times when the eclipse will be visible in your viewing area.
  • Be mindful of wildlife including snakes and other animals or insects, like fire ants and ticks, that may be present in rural settings.
  • Be aware of and respect private property lines, including fences, to avoid trespass.

Farron Sultemeier, DAR agent for District 18A, Fredericksburg, said this event is truly special and one people should prepare for, but also remember to enjoy. Sultemeier said he hopes crowds gathering for the eclipse are respectful to the locations they visit and their fellow viewers.

Trash dumpsters have been added to public viewing areas, but Sultemeier said it is important for visitors to adhere to the outdoor ethics principle, “leave no trace.”

Sultemeier said Texans should have time to prepare for the event and that should make for an overall great day to watch this total solar eclipse. By following safety and preparedness tips, people across the state can make the most of this experience while staying safe and well-prepared.

“It is good to remember this event is important to so many people because of how very rare it is,” Sultemeier said. “We have visitors traveling into our state from all over the world. They are looking to find a place that has some open space for viewing with limited light interruption.”