DRIGGS, Idaho (Reuters) – Hyrum Johnson, mayor of the tiny city of Driggs, Idaho, expects some craziness in his one-stoplight town next month when the moon passes in front of the sun for the first total solar eclipse in the lower 48 U.S. states since 1979.
The town of 1,600 people in Teton County, just west of the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains Teton Range, is getting poised to receive as many as 100,000 visitors on Aug. 21 for the celestial event, said Johnson, who was both excited and worried.
Driggs is one of hundreds of towns and cities along a 70-mile arc, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, that are in the direct path of the moon’s shadow. The full eclipse and the sun’s corona around the disk of the moon will be visible for a little more than two minutes only to those within this narrow band.
Driggs and other towns like it are scrambling to prepare for the onslaught of curious visitors.
“We expect gridlock,” Johnson, 46, said as he drove his pickup truck through town.
Tucked amid seed potato and quinoa farms, Driggs normally enjoys a more languid pace of life, with highlights including $5 lime shakes sold on balmy summer days at the corner drug store. But with the impending eclipse, planning has kicked into high gear.
To make sure nothing more than the roads will be clogged, Johnson took shipment this month of two massive generators that can be deployed at key spots along the city’s sewage system to keep it flowing in case of a power outage.
“We are telling our residents to hunker down,” Johnson said.
And while Johnson would have preferred to have taken his family backpacking during the time of the eclipse, he’s planning to stay in town in case anything goes wrong.