When Columbia residents step outside Monday to watch the eclipse, they should have plenty of company.
Crowd-watchers expect as many as 1 million people to come to South Carolina to watch the rare solar event. Up to 700,000 visitors could come to Columbia alone, according to some estimates. Hotels in the capital city are booked up for Sunday, and law enforcement will be lining the interstate in expectation of heavy traffic.
So how does the scale of this influx compare to other big Columbia events? A look at the numbers.
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That’s the estimated number of people who evacuated from the S.C. coast ahead of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Eastbound lanes of Interstate 26 were reversed to allow people to move inland, and hotels were filled all the way to the North Carolina line.
The coastal evacuation due to 1989’s Hurricane Hugo wasn’t as big as that from Matthew. However, it still filled 191 Red Cross shelters for days after the storm came ashore, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division.
The largest crowd ever to see a USC football game at Williams-Brice Stadium was in 2012. The stands were packed for the No. 6 Gamecocks’ 35-7 victory over fifth-ranked Georgia. Many of those in attendance were locals – plenty were USC students – but some also traveled to witness the Top 10 match-up.
A smaller crowd turned out to see Pope John Paul II at Williams-Brice Stadium when the pontiff visited Columbia in 1987. It was the first — and, thus far, only — time that the head of the Roman Catholic Church has visited the Palmetto State, deep in the Protestant Bible Belt.
Almost 50,000 showed up to protest the Confederate flag flying atop the S.C. State House during the first King Day at the Dome rally in 2000. Reported as the largest protest ever in South Carolina, the rally led to the flag being removed that summer and placed next to the monument to Confederate soldiers on the State House grounds.
That’s how many people crowded onto Gervais Street, in front of the S.C. State House, to watch the Confederate flag come down from its flag pole on the State House grounds on July 10, 2015. A day earlier, then-Gov. Nikki Haley had signed legislation to remove the flag in response to the racially inspired mass slaying at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.