Midlands residents need to prepare for the crowds this weekend leading up to 2:41 p.m. on Monday, when the moon will cast a shadow on South Carolina’s capital city.
Emergency management officials are stressing that local residents should be prepared for the congestion that out-of-state visitors could bring for Monday’s total solar eclipse.
Whether preparing for a natural disaster like a hurricane or for the eclipse, “the big key of it is the planning piece,” said S.C. Emergency Management Division director Kim Stenson.
“Each individual has to be their own emergency manager.”
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Up to 600,000 visitors from at least 32 states and eight countries are expected to be in Columbia.
While you should make sure you have your NASA-certified glasses to view Monday’s solar eclipse, emergency officials say there is more you can do to be ready.
Locals need to prepare for busy roads, packed restaurants, out-of-town relatives and possible lines for gas.
Interstates and some roads are expected to be jammed, so staying local home will reduce your chances of getting stuck in a traffic jam. “If they can stay home, that makes sense to stay off the roadways,” Stenson said.
In Columbia, congestion could be tough. Trains will continue to run through the city.
If the weather is cloudy, traffic could be even worse. Thousands of visitors could leave the area to try to get to a better viewing spot. If you do travel on interstates, don’t speed. About 160 extra state troopers will be on I-26 and nearby roads.
Charge your phone
Charge your phone before heading out and be sure to have a car charger.
Sitting in traffic and using your phone — if you can — during eclipse events could drain your battery. You also may need to post your eclipse selfie later. Cell towers could be overwhelmed by traffic, making using the internet difficult. However, major wireless companies plan to prepare for the onslaught of phone users by putting up temporary transmission towers so you can use your phone.
Fill up your tank
There could be lines for gas throughout the weekend. Fill up your tank early to ensure you don’t run out of gas.
On Friday, the average price of gas was $2.06 a gallon in Columbia, according to AAA Carolinas. That is about a penny below the state average and about 28 cents below the national average.
Get your cash, sunscreen and water early
Have cash this weekend. Debit-card machines could be bogged down by lines or drained of cash, and you may have to pay cash for some items this weekend. You’ll also need change to feed the meters on Monday during the eclipse.
Also, get groceries early to avoid long lines in stores. In particular, make sure to have your sunscreen and bottles of water by Monday: August in Columbia is “famously hot.”
Don’t yell at Aunt Sue
Your house could get crowded. Hotels and AirBnB rentals are packed. That means friends and relatives could be crashing at your place, and that can get overwhelming.
But don’t yell at Aunt Sue. If conversations turn to politics, put in your earbuds and listen to an Eclipse playlist. “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison of The Beatles can diffuse even the most tense situations.