Photo by Darryl Barr
The sun's corona in space during a total eclipse
Motels in North Platte are already filling for Aug. 21, next year, with people coming to watch the rare total solar eclipse.Central Nebraska is considered one of the best places in the United States to watch the eclipse.
The early motel bookings fulfill predictions that Lincoln County will receive thousands of visitors from all over the country, plus some from around the world.
Because of it's climate and low humidity, the Nebraska Sandhills is rated the No. 4 best spot in the country to watch the eclipse, veteran eclipse watchers say.
Those who come will see the sun blotted out for 2.5 minutes in the middle of the day if they go to the prime viewing area, affording the the longest period of “totality,” about 40 miles north of the Platte valleys. The sun will be totally eclipsed in North Platte, for slightly less than two minutes.
The spectacular minutes of darkness won’t happen all at once. Although the eclipse will peak during the noon hour, the shadow of the moon will march across the face of the sun for nearly three hours.
The arrival of the darkness is a staggering thing to witness, veteran eclipse watchers say.
Tent festivals with food, arts, crafts and accessories are planned in prime areas.
Lincoln County Emergency Manager Brandon Myers said Monday that the La Quinta Inn in North Platte is already booked for that weekend.
Some 70% of the rooms available in North Platte that weekend are already booked. Several motels are completely sold out, according to www.tripadvisor.com on Monday afternoon.
Myers said two busloads of visitors are booked from Germany, as he talked to the Lincoln County Commissioners Monday morning.
“Can you guarantee that it won’t be cloudy and rainy, that day?” Commissioner Duane Deterding quipped.
Myers said he could not guarantee it, but the western part of the U.S., including the Sandhills north of the Platte Rivers has the best odds of clear skies. Also, Nebraska's relatively good roads will allow visitors to expediently move to a sunny location, if necessary, compared to places that have winding roads. Thus, the No. 4 rating.
Muriel Clark of the Lincoln County Visitor’s Center is encouraging friends and acquaintances to open their homes to guests through the Airbnb website.
People can list short-term lodging in their residential properties through Airbnb (air bed and breakfast.) The property owners set the cost. Airbnb began in 2008 when two designers with space to share hosted three travelers looking for a place to stay.
The website is www.airbnb.com
Clark said people are immediately signing up for rooms in North Platte through Airbnb.
Myers is spreading the word to city and county officials, telling them that it will be an event on the scale of Nebraskaland Days or bigger, which means extra public services should stand by, including police and rescue personnel.
Eclipse viewing sites and festivals are being planned north of North Platte in Stapleton and Tryon, and Hershey leaders are talking about it too, Myer said.