50k people expected in Sweetwater for eclipse - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

50k people expected in Sweetwater for eclipse

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WBIR - 

In six days, thousands of people will swarm the small town of Sweetwater, Tennessee, for the total solar eclipse. 

Sweetwater is expected to see two minutes and 37 seconds of totality during the eclipse, making it a prime spot for people across the country the world to visit. 

"We've known that this is going to be a big thing in Sweetwater, but I think it's even surprised us at how big it's gotten," said Jessica Morgan, Sweetwater city recorder. 

Morgan is estimating 50,000 to 60,000 people will fill the town, which normally has a population of just 6,500 people. She said people are coming from at least 34 states and six countries. 

Morgan added that the city has traffic, emergency and communication plans in place. 

"It's all hands on deck," she said. "We've got lots of other agencies that are coming in to help us so we're confident about our planning, but sometimes plans go out the window if 100,000 people show up." 

Morgan said the city has sold out of its 3,500 parking spots, most of which are near the interstate. However, individual property owners still have spots for sale on the day of the eclipse. 

There will also be parking at Sweetwater High School on Aug. 21 for $10 a spot on a first come, first serve basis.

"We've got lots of parking places," Morgan said. "I still don't know if it will be enough, but I'm glad that our property owners have stepped up to help sell those parking spaces.

The city will have vendors set up in downtown Sweetwater throughout the weekend, with a movie night on Sunday. The festival for the eclipse begins at 10 a.m. Monday, but Morgan is warning people to arrive early. 

"If somebody thinks that they can wake up on Monday morning and drive down at 10 or 11 o'clock to Sweetwater, it's probably not going to happen." 

Morgan has asked cell carriers to bring in extra towers, but she hasn't been able to confirm that yet. She is encouraging folks to have a paper map and full tank of gas. 

Residents are also urged to stock up on medications and groceries before the big day because traffic is expected to be heavy. 

The downtown area of Sweetwater is ramping up for the events of the weekend. Shops have eclipse-themed displays and the streets are filled with signs, astronauts and aliens for decoration. 

Angie McJunkins, manager of The Lily Pad Boutique, showed off the t-shirt the store is selling in honor of the occasion, which features the slogan "head to toe blackout."

"They've really gone well," McJunkins said. "A lot of what we've sold today was these t-shirts and people calling about them, and they've seen them on Facebook." 

McJunkins said the store is looking forward to the influx of customers and the business that the extra people in town will bring. 

"We hope that it will be great, that we'll get some lifetime customers from it that are visiting from everywhere," she said. 

For more information about the events in Sweetwater related to the eclipse, click here

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