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How do Ohio locals feel about the upcoming eclipse and the tourists it will bring?

A series of circles lined up vertically on a book shelf show the phases of a solar eclipse.
Allie Vugrincic
A display in the children's section of the Delaware County District Library shows the phases of a solar eclipse.

On April 8, Ohio will be in the path of a total solar eclipse. The rare celestial event is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to the state.

For a few awe-inspiring minutes, the sky will grow dark, but what about the hours before and after?

Michael Jacknis is flying into Columbus from Silver Springs, Maryland for a whirlwind one-day trip to see the eclipse. He’s excited, but he’s also concerned about the city and how it will handle all of the eclipse tourists.

“I want to be a respectful visitor. And I want to have this be a good experience for everyone. But I don't know how to do that,” Jacknis said.

Jacknis asked WOSU’s Curious Cbus: How do Ohio locals feel about the eclipse and the influx of tourists?

“Well, I tell you, it’s going to be crazy,” said Brandi Rigel.

Rigel lives in the city of Delaware and works at Opa! Tavern downtown. During the eclipse, she’ll be working, but will be able to see Sandusky Street go dark through the restaurant’s large windows.

“Everyone is working. I think all hands will be on deck. And almost 95% of the restaurants, honestly,” Rigel said.

A basket is filled with eclipse glasses.
Allie Vugrincic
A basket is filled with eclipse glasses.

Heading into totality

The moon will not fully block the sun in Columbus, but areas just north or west will have totality, during which eclipse watchers can temporarily take off their glasses. Dublin, for example, will get just under a minute and a half of total darkness.

Nearly all of Delaware County will be in the path of totality, making it a prime spot for visitors. Opa! Tavern owner Genti Koci isn’t too worried, though.

“It's just an eclipse. It's just like, let's get mooned,” Koci said. “It's two minutes and 37 seconds. Like the world, I promise you, it's not going to end.”

Koci expects the eclipse will be just like other large events, and Delaware can handle it.

“I mean, we have done marathons in here before,” Koci said. “We’ve had different activities, like big events and stuff. So, it'll be okay.”

Just up the street, Hamburger Inn Diner owner Rob Pearson said he hadn’t put much thought into the eclipse.

“It's a Monday. A lot of businesses actually are kind of closed on Mondays. So, yeah, I do think we'll be busy,” Pearson said.

People stroll along Sandusky Street in downtown Delaware.
Allie Vugrincic
People stroll along Sandusky Street in downtown Delaware.

Looking back: Lessons from 2017's eclipse

But how much impact will the eclipse actually have?

Some estimates suggest that in 2017 as many as 20 million people traveled for the total eclipse that arced a narrow path from South Carolina to Oregon.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism reported that nearly 200,000 out-of-state visitors spent close to $60 million there. And some 1.6 million people are thought to have traveled to or within South Carolina.

But along with economic boosts, that eclipse – the first in North America in 38 years – brought something else: traffic.

“Traffic is always a worry in this town. Especially with all the construction going on on the east side of the town,” Rigel said.

Genti said everything would be fine if drivers were patient and courteous.

“Take your time when you have to leave. Don't rush,” he said.

The Transportation Research Board reported that after the 2017 eclipse, interstates and rural roads were congested for up to 13 hours. A trip that usually took four hours took 10.

“Our first responders have been talking about this for years, and we're prepared."
- Alex McCarthy, director of emergency management for Delaware County

Ohio getting ready 

Ohio is bracing for similar traffic jams. The Ohio Department of Transportation has mapped day-long traffic scenarios for anywhere from 150,000 to more than 570,000 visitors.

Delaware County Director of Emergency Management Alex McCarthy said locals should gas up before the eclipse.

“There's probably going to be a run on some snacks and other things people can eat in cars,” McCarthy said. “So, do your grocery shopping the day before also, but I really don't expect this to be some apocalyptic event.”

Still, Delaware EMA plans to keep a close eye on traffic near hospitals and has planned alternative routes for first responders. The Red Cross is on standby in case any families are displaced by emergencies and can’t find a hotel with rooms available.

“Our first responders have been talking about this for years, and we're prepared,” McCarthy said.

Locals like Jeanne Leskovec of Delaware are prepared, too.

“I have an eclipse shirt ready. I have my glasses ready. I even have a keychain,” Leskovec said. She added that she feels lucky to already be in the path of totality and will likely go to the Delaware County Fairgrounds on the big day.

Most local schools have taken the day off so students can watch the eclipse and so that buses and school dismissals don't contribute to post-eclipse traffic.

Izzy Duchemin and Liliana Melvin, both 11, plan to stay close to home in Delaware and enjoy the show.

Izzy said she’ll go outside and try to take a picture of the eclipse.

“I live in a neighborhood that has big backyards. So, we're going to go to one of my neighbor’s houses,” Liliana said.

And 8-year-old Max Lunsford, of Powell, is excited because he said, “Someone in my class read a book that the eclipse comes every 35 million years.”

Eclipses aren’t exactly that rare, but the next one to pass over the U.S. will be in 2044 and the next in Ohio will be in 2099.

Allie Vugrincic has been a radio reporter at WOSU 89.7 NPR News since March 2023.