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Oklahoma officials offer guidelines, tips for solar eclipse

Jongsun Lee

As the solar eclipse draws closer on April 8, Oklahoma officials are issuing some tips and guidelines.

"This is going to be huge for tourism and a chance to show off the Oklahoma Standard," said Gov. Kevin Stitt. "We've been preparing for months for the influx of people coming in."

The state is expected to see anywhere from 17,000 to 66,000 travelers to watch the solar eclipse, according to a study conducted by the GreatAmericanEclipse.com.

The path of totality will completely cover McCurtain County, and partially cover Choctaw, Bryan, Atoka, Pushmataha, Latimer, and Leflore Counties.

Expect Traffic Congestion

"The event will be an exercise in congestion management," State Transportation Director Tim Gatz said at a press conference Tuesday.

Gatz said the influx of visitors to southeastern Oklahoma could overwhelm and backup the area's road systems. He also urged travelers not to block roadways.

"We have a lot of rural two-lane highways that don’t have a safety shoulder on them. So there is nowhere to pull off. And please don’t stop in the roadway during the eclipse and take pictures or anything like that," said Gatz.

Travelers are encouraged to have a full tank of gas in case they get stuck in congestion for an extended period of time.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol will have extra troopers in the southeastern part of the state before, during and after the eclipse.

Limited Cell Service

Officials are also alerting travelers to the possibility of limited cellular service in that part of the state.

State Secretary of Tourism Shelley Zumwalt says you may want to go old-school and pick up a paper map.

"You will have places—especially in our state parks—where you won’t have service. Be prepared. Take a map with you because you will need it," Zumwalt said.

Maps can be found at all Tourism Information Centers.

More information about state parks in the path of totality and camping options can be found here.

Is It Going To Be Cloudy?

The National Weather Service in Tulsa, responsible for weather forecasts in southeast Oklahoma, is providing twice-daily updates on anticipated sky conditions for April 8.

"Increasing high clouds are expected [Monday], but the dreaded low cloudiness that could spell heartbreak for those seeking a glimpse of the total solar eclipse has a high likelihood of holding off until later in the day.," the National Weather Service in Tulsa said.

Eclipse Eye Safety

Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s face, it is unsafe to look directly at the Sun without special eye protection designed for solar viewing.

Regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun. Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Experts say to always inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer before use. Check to see if the viewing device is scratched, torn or otherwise damaged. If it is, don't use it.

The total eclipse will pass over Oklahoma starting at 1:44 p.m. CDT and end by 1:51 p.m. CDT on April 8, 2024.

The town with the longest total eclipse viewing time will be Shults, Oklahoma, approximately 3 miles east of Idabel, with 4 minutes and 19 seconds of viewing time, according to eclipse2024.org.

Nyk has worked in radio since 2011 serving as a board operator, on-air announcer and production director for commercial radio stations in Iowa. Originally from the Quad Cities area, Nyk joined KGOU in 2018 as a practicum student studying Creative Media Production at OU. Upon graduating the following year, he became part of KGOU’s staff and is now the local Morning Edition host. When not on the air, Nyk likes to read, listen to music and follow news about the radio industry.
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