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Poplar Bluff prepares for the eclipse

 A novelty sized pair of solar eclipse glasses outside of the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce
used courtesy the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce
A novelty sized pair of solar eclipse glasses outside of the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce

We look at how one city in the path of totality in Southeast, Missouri is preparing for next week's solar eclipse.

The solar eclipse is less than a week away and a thin stretch of Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri will be in the path of totality. West Plains, Missouri and Hot Springs, Arkansas are just a few regional cities looking to celebrate the event. Poplar Bluff, Missouri is one other city in the path. They are preparing for a big weekend and hoping to take advantage of the once in a lifetime event.

Steve Halter, president of the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce, said “we’ve had calls and queries from as far away as Japan and Italy. We expect our airport to be maxed out.”

They’ve spent more than a year preparing.

"We decided just to go full blown,” Halter said “we weren’t going to make it a deal where people just come in and view it that day. We wanted to have a four-day event.”

Halter said it took a little effort to convince the business community how big of a deal this eclipse is, but now the city of 16,000 expects over 20,000 additional visitors during the weekend of events they are calling the “Total Eclipse of the Bluff”, which includes a firework display Friday, a fun run and concerts throughout the weekend all leading up to a day of events Monday, with 20 designated viewing sites and a market of vendors at the main viewing site the Poplar Bluff Highschool.

"It’s going to be a big deal,” Halter explained, “we’re expecting about a six-million-dollar economic impact locally.”

They’re arranging free shuttles for Saturday and Monday to relieve congestion and help people get around the city. And the Chamber has been busy preparing business, making sure they’re fully stocked and staffed.

The city is also preparing itself, not just to get through the event, but to leave a good impression on the thousands of attendees who will be visiting Poplar Bluff, and likely Missouri, for the first time.

Halter said, “any chance that we get to get people from outside the area to take a peek and see what all the wonderful points of interest we have. We love it.”

This past weekend over 200 volunteers contributed to a citywide cleanup, the city is also taking the steps you’d imagine, making sure trash and sanitation services are available for the massive crowds, and they’ve even opened up a city park to temporary camping for the event.

It’s not all fun. There will be some science going on. A team from Virginia Tech will be on hand launching a balloon 70,000 feet into the area to collect atmospheric data during the eclipse. The balloon will also share a video live streaming its perspective.

For those making last minute plans to attend, or to view from anywhere in the path of totality, Chamber President Halter’s advice is to be patient and to avoid traffic snarls by not rushing right away.

He said, “the moon starts phasing over the sun around 12:30 and doesn’t phase out until almost three o’clock, so you can see a lot of cool stuff for that entire three or four hours.”

Find a full list of Poplar Bluff's events at this link.

View Virginia Tech's Eclipse Balloon live stream at this link during the event.

Click here to see the full path the eclipse will take.

Copyright 2024 KSMU. To see more, visit KSMU.

Chris Drew