Why are there so many emergency warnings about this year’s total solar eclipse?

It has probably not escaped your notice that a total solar eclipse will pass through North America this year, on April 8. The eclipse should be spectacular, coinciding with solar maximum.

‘In 2017, the sun approached solar minimum. Viewers of the total solar eclipse could see the breathtaking corona – but because the Sun was still, the currents entering the solar atmosphere were confined to only the equatorial regions of the star,” NASA explained.

“During the 2024 solar eclipse, the Sun will be at or near solar maximum, when the magnetic field looks more like a tangled hairball. Streamers will likely be visible throughout the corona. Additionally, viewers will have a better chance of seeing prominences – which appear as bright, pink curls or loops coming from the sun.”

The eclipse should be visible from Mexico to Canada. The path of totality – the area where people will see a total solar eclipse – is wider than in 2017 because the moon is closer to Earth due to where it is in its orbit, meaning more people will see the corona of the will see the sun. NASA even noted that, with a bit of luck, they might even see a coronal mass ejection during the solar eclipse.

The eclipse is of course not dangerous for people on Earth. All the moon does is briefly protect us from harmful UV rays, like a giant, rocky beach umbrella. So why are there so many warnings about the solar eclipse this year? In addition to asking people to stock up on fuel, food and water, several emergency services have warned that schools should close and residents should also stock up on supplies for pets.

Simply put, this is due to the expected increase in tourist numbers associated with the solar eclipse, increasing pressure on local transport and emergency services, which are not designed to handle such an influx. It is advisable to stock up in advance to reduce the number of cars on the road around the day of the solar eclipse.

“What we could have here is a crowd that we are not used to,” Dave Freeman, director of the Lorain County EMA, explained in a statement to USA Today, urging local residents to stock up on supplies. “We are not equipped for that in terms of infrastructure, we do not have the roads for that.”

“A lot of the roads here are two lanes,” Freeman added, according to Yahoo News. “This isn’t Chicago, this isn’t Cleveland, where we have a number of four-lane and six-lane highways, so the traffic here can be pretty extreme if we get more people than we expect.”

Mobile phone masts can also become overloaded. Schools in some Texas counties have been warned to close to alleviate some of the traffic stress by taking the school run out of the equation.

As always, there will be those who will say, “We didn’t have these kinds of warnings in 2017/any previous eclipse and everything was fine!” to which the answer is: no, it wasn’t. Prior to the 2017 solar eclipse, the local government had planned an increase in visitors, but traffic congestion was still a problem.

“The millions of people drawn to locations along the eclipse path taxed limited transportation facilities, and traffic congestion was intense in many locations,” transportation engineer Jonathan Upchurch explained in Transportation Research News.

“Across the country, interstate highways near the path of totality experienced traffic congestion shortly after the eclipse, with longer-than-normal travel times on interstate highways. For example, travel from Casper, Wyoming, to Denver, Colorado – normally a 4-1 one-hour trip – took 10 hours or more. Traffic congestion on rural interstate routes lasted until 13 hours after the eclipse.

Plus, even though you may have missed them, there were warnings ahead of the 2017 solar eclipse. Plus, they were effective, so it makes sense for officials to use them ahead of this year’s solar eclipse.

“The data showed that Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming had the largest traffic increases on the day of the solar eclipse compared to other states,” explains an article on traffic management during the 2017 solar eclipse.

“Interestingly, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri had reduced daily traffic. One reason could be transportation agencies’ advice for people to reduce their shopping during eclipse week.”

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