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You might already know that on April 8 this year, a total solar eclipse will sweep across North America, promising an extraordinary show during the solar maximum phase.

Back in 2017, the Sun was approaching a quieter phase, its solar minimum, allowing eclipse watchers to marvel at its corona but limiting the visibility of solar streamers to just around the equator, according to NASA.

However, for the 2024 eclipse, the Sun will be at or near its most active phase, solar maximum, where its magnetic field turns into a chaotic mess. This condition is expected to make streamers visible across the entire corona. Additionally, the chances of seeing solar prominences, those vivid pink arcs and loops, are much higher.

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This eclipse will cast its shadow from Mexico all the way to Canada, traversing a broader path of totality than the one in 2017, thanks to the Moon’s closer proximity to Earth in its orbit. This means an even larger number of people will get to witness the corona in full glory. NASA also hints at the possibility of observing a coronal mass ejection during this event, adding to the spectacle.

Despite the natural wonder, the eclipse poses no danger to people on Earth, acting more like a colossal, stone umbrella that momentarily shields us from the Sun’s harmful UV rays. So, the surge in safety warnings this year isn’t about the eclipse itself but about the anticipated flood of tourists it attracts, which could overwhelm local transportation and emergency services. Officials recommend stocking up on essentials, including pet supplies, to minimize travel and congestion during the eclipse.

Lorain County’s EMA director, Dave Freeman, highlighted in USA Today that the expected crowds could surpass what local infrastructures can handle, emphasizing that many areas only have two-lane roads, unlike the multi-lane roads in larger cities, which could lead to significant traffic issues.

The possibility of cell phone network overloads and school closures in certain Texas counties are among the measures being considered to alleviate some of the anticipated pressures.

Some may recall that similar warnings were not as prominent during the 2017 eclipse or earlier ones, with claims that “everything was fine.” However, the experience from 2017 tells a different story, with significant traffic jams proving a challenge, as transportation engineering consultant Jonathan Upchurch detailed in Transportation Research News.

Even though some warnings from 2017 might have gone unnoticed, they indeed had an effect, as evidenced by traffic data showing increased congestion in certain states while others experienced a decrease, likely due to heeded advice to limit travel during the eclipse week.

As we approach this year’s celestial event, it’s clear why officials are keen on issuing warnings and preparing for the influx of eclipse chasers, aiming to ensure a smooth experience for both residents and visitors alike.

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