• Monday's solar eclipse brings influx of tourists along path of totality

    By: Glenn Burns , Rikki Klaus , Steve Gehlbach

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - People from across the country are flocking to areas where today's total solar eclipse can be seen best.

    Severe Weather Team 2 Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday, which is along the path of totality.

    The path of totality is the shadow of the moon as it sweeps across the country, allowing viewers to see the eclipse at or near 10- percent coverage.

    Burns found people from across the country who traveled to Charleston for the rare event.

    "I think it's going to be really cool, that we can see a ring around the moon, and it's going to be dark at two in the afternoon," Lilly Israel, of Florida, told Burns.


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    Micah Baugh says visitors are in his hometown from Africa and Europe to the catch the eclipse, on the path of totality.

    "People have said that this is the busiest this town has been since the 1996 Olympics, when we had our rafting in Duck Town," he said.

    Authorities in South Carolina are expecting about 2 million visitors to the state because of Monday’s eclipse. Some visitors have been planning for a long time.

    "At least a year. We booked our rooms last year," McArthur Billing of Maryland said.

    Billing brought his wife and children to Charleston to see the eclipse.

    Special Section: Total Solar Eclipse (Click image below)

    Total Solar Eclipse

    Burns asked the family who was most excited to see the sun go dark during afternoon

    "I think it's me,” Billing said. “It's definitely me. I pushed for this one.”

    Billing said he doesn’t have a lot of expectations.

    “I just think it's going to go dark. Hopefully we get a little temp change,” Billing said.

    Jane McCoy and her family came all the way from California for Monday’s eclipse. She said they're ready.

    "We got a book for the kids to read to prepare them and we got the glasses and filter for our camera," McCoy told Burns.

    Special glasses or a pinhole viewer are needed so you don’t damage your eyes.

    "We are really excited to see it," McCoy said.

    North Georgia is also serving as prime real estate for the eclipse. Thousands of visitors are heading to the mountains to get their chance to see the eclipse at its fullest.

    Blue Ridge sits in the coveted path of totality.

    “It is the busiest I’ve ever seen it,” said Micha Baugh.


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    Baugh is a host at the popular downtown restaurant Harvest on Main in Blue Ridge.

    “There were some people from Africa and many European countries I’ve noticed,” Baugh told Channel 2’s Rikki Klaus.

    Come Monday, at 2:34 p.m., the sun will be blocked for less than a minute in Blue Ridge.

    “I’m looking forward to being at a once-in-a-lifetime thing, that’s for sure,” Fran Medori, from Delaware, told Klaus.

    The Shepard family drove from central Florida to their cabin in the mountains. Cliff Shepard is hoping the clouds stay away on Monday.

    “Maybe fourth or fifth grade, I remember I had to drive from Jacksonville, Florida to Valdosta to be where totality was, but it was completely overcast, so all you saw was it got dark. It got light,” Shepard said.

    Baugh told Klaus that the restaurant is booked solid with reservations through Tuesday.

    “People have said that this is the busiest this town has been since the 1996 Olympics,” Baugh said.

    Klaus found eclipse glasses going for $15 a piece in Blue Ridge on Sunday afternoon, and the shop she stopped at was almost sold out.

    North Georgia isn't the only area where tourists are visiting, many are passing through Atlanta.

    More than 7 million people are expected to travel for the eclipse over the next day.

    Schools are even delaying dismissal for the event.

    [These schools are delaying dismissal for the solar eclipse]

    Metro Atlanta area drivers are preparing for the extra traffic, with many using the weekend to get into place.

    Georgia’s Department of Transportation is deploying more HERO units and suspending construction Monday to keep more lanes open. They are treating it like as they would a busy holiday travel day.

    “I’m hoping there won’t be a lot of traffic but there probably will be. It’s probably going to be rough,” Cindy Sachse said.

    We spoke to travelers excited to be a part of history.

    “I’m excited to be in a middle of something that everyone is talking about. It's a subject in every conversation,” Sabrina Damico said.

    AAA and GDOT issued driving recommendations for the eclipse:

    • Do not pull over on the interstate or shoulder
    • Exit and find a safe place if needed
    • Do not drive distracted
    • If you are driving, turn on your headlights

    People across metro Atlanta are still scrambling to find last-minute solar eclipse glasses.

    On Friday, people waited in line for hours to make sure they had a pair.

    Sales of counterfeit glasses have been reported across metro Atlanta and the United States.

    "Unfortunately when you look at the sun, it is so bright but there are no pain receptors in the back of the eye, so your eyes won’t tell you look away. It's just going to burn without pain," Dr. Nepa Bhadra said.

    NASA initially recommended four certified manufacturers but has added to that list of certified eclipse glasses and handheld viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for eye and face protection.

    As of Friday, however, all of the approved manufacturers were out of stock on their official websites.

    [Here’s how to make a viewer to safely watch the eclipse]

    The eclipse will be at its peak at slightly different times across Georgia.

    People in Rome can expect the peak viewing time at 2:34 p.m.

    Carrollton can expect it at 2:35 p.m., Atlanta at 2:36 p.m., followed by Gainesville and Athens.

    [Click here for a full list of peak viewing times for the total solar eclipse]


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