Total solar eclipse could bring thousands to mid-Missouri

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COLUMBIA - A total solar eclipse predicted for August 21, 2017 has Columbia in its ideal viewing area.

MU Professor of Astrophysics and the Director of Astronomy Angela Speck said the eclipse could bring hundreds of thousands to cities along the ideal viewing area. 

"So looking at who might come from where, what distances people travel, where there are amenities and things like that, I think with very little effort, we could have 400,000 visitors," Speck said. "It's something that will be an opportunity for people to see this that will likely never see it again."

Speck is presenting information at the Columbia City Council meeting Monday evening to tell council members that they need to start preparing the city now.

"And this is the issue that I think we need to address right now is: if we have even half of that, we're not ready for it," Speck said. "We don't have enough hotel rooms, we don't have enough amenities. We need to be ready for this. We could take a big advantage of this. This could be a huge tourism boom for us, but we need to be ready and we're not there yet."

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he's interested in hearing what Speck has to say and that "it doesn't hurt to include" in Monday's meeting. He said he wants to get the information out to the residents of Columbia and is classifying tonight's presentation as "informational." 

She compared the preparations for this event to the Olympics and thinks examining how cities prepare for the games could be useful.

"Because people will come. This is happening," Speck said. "There is nothing we can do about it. People will come. We should be ready."

Speck said the total eclipse phase starts at 1:12 p.m. and it lasts for two and a half minutes. The whole event will take from about midday to about 2-3 o'clock.

She said the total eclipse falls on MU's first day of classes for the Fall 2017 semester. Plans to make it easier for professors to cancel class or move their class outside to watch it are already in place, she said. 

A total solar eclipse from coast-to-coast in the United States has not happened since June 8, 1918.

See the path of the total solar eclipse.