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Emergency Officials Issue Safety Alert Ahead of Solar Eclipse: "Prepare Yourself"

Huge crowds means there's more to be concerned about than getting the right glasses.

It's not uncommon for crowds to gather to watch an event as rare as a solar eclipse. And with the next one coming up in less than two months, many are planning to travel far and wide to make sure they don't miss the last time the celestial phenomenon will occur in the U.S. for decades. Now, emergency officials in some places are starting to issue safety alerts ahead of April's solar eclipse. Read on to see why they're warning everyone to "prepare yourself" for the highly anticipated event.

RELATED: What Really Happens to Your Eyes If You Look Directly at a Solar Eclipse.

The next total solar eclipse is expected to draw millions of spectators.

The moon covering the sun during a total solar eclipse with a "diamond ring effect" happening

It's not every day you get the chance to watch a total solar eclipse take place. The celestial event requires being in the right place at the right time to get the full effect, and in a few weeks, massive crowds are expected to gather to take in what will be the last time such a spectacle will be visible from the U.S. until 2044.

On April 8, the moon will completely block out the sun along a path of totality that begins in Texas, according to NASA. The trajectory then runs northeast through several states, including Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Vermont, and Maine.

Besides being a special occasion, the event is notable because it will already cover an area where 31.6 million people live, per the space agency. But plenty more are expected to travel to ensure they get the best view, with anywhere from 1 to 4 million people predicted to travel to the path of totality, according to Great American Eclipse.

RELATED: Southwest Says You Can View the Total Solar Eclipse on These 8 Flights.

Some officials now warn there could be serious issues with crowds.

Highway traffic jam

Even though many cities are planning festivities surrounding the event, the large influx of people is raising some concern. Local officials in areas along the path of totality are beginning to warn of the problems so many visitors could cause.

"What we could have is crowds here that we're not used to," Dave Freeman, director of the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency in Ohio, told local Cleveland Fox affiliate WJW. "We're not set up infrastructure-wise for that; we don't have the roads."

Officials in neighboring Indiana also raised the alarm on potential problems. Earlier this week, the Indiana State Police (ISP) and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) cautioned that traffic could become gridlocked surrounding the event, local ABC affiliate WHAS reported.

RELATED: Parts of the U.S. Will See the Northern Lights in 2024—Here's Where and When.

The public is being warned to stock up on essential supplies before the eclipse.

Cropped shot of a woman using a smartphone while shopping in a grocery store

Having a crowd come to town can make it harder to get around. But officials worry the event may create some serious snarls due to limited capacity on highways and streets.

"A lot of the roads here are two lanes," Freeman told WJW. "This is not Chicago, this is not Cleveland, where we have a bunch of four-lane, six-lane roads coming in, so the traffic could be pretty extreme here if we get crowds more than we expect.

Because of the anticipated travel difficulties, the Lorain County EMA is advising residents to stock up on essentials, including food, water, and fuel, in the days leading up to the total solar eclipse.

"That's where the three days of food and water comes from: Not that there's going to be any shortage of food or water, but what they're maybe is difficulty getting anywhere," Freeman cautioned.

Roads could also be miserable once the event wraps up.

Difficulty Driving
Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock

And it's not just the growing crowds that will create snarls on the roads. Experts warn that the departing exodus could be potentially worse than the incoming hordes.

"It's a little bit like going to a big sporting event where people take their time getting in, but everybody wants to leave at the same time," Scott Katsinas, a travel adviser at Katsinas Travel Consultants in Arizona, told The New York Times in October.

According to the INDOT and ISP alert, residents are urged to plan ahead around the eclipse and avoid any unnecessary travel during peak times. Anyone planning on driving to a nearby spot should pack plenty of snacks, drinks, and chargers for the day to account for heavy traffic on return trips. And while everyone is urged to plan ahead, officials still said there was no reason to panic heading into the festivities.

"This is not doomsday," Freeman WJW. "Prepare yourself, just be ready for it."

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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