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Eclipse bringing potential economic windfall to Texas cities, price gouging

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(The Center Square) – Monday’s total solar eclipse will cover more areas in Texas than any other state.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun and lines up with the sun, blocking all of its light, NASA explains. “As the Moon blocks the Sun’s light, it casts a shadow on part of the Earth. The Moon’s shadow creates a trail as Earth rotates. This trail is called the path of totality.”

The path of totality is an estimated 150 miles wide and will span 2,500 miles from Texas to northeastern Maine.

In Texas, it stretches across the state, from the southwest in Eagle Pass northeast through San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas, Tyler and Texarkana, and everywhere in-between.

More than 12.8 million Texans live in the path of totality, which is expected to last for up to 4 minutes and 26 seconds depending on the area. That’s two seconds shy of the longest possible totality anywhere in the world.

According to an analysis by the Texas comptroller, three regions of Texas are expected to bring in the greatest amount of revenue from those traveling to see the eclipse.

In the central region of Texas, in Waco, up to 20,000 people are expected to participate in an “Eclipse over Texas” event hosted by the city of Waco, Baylor University, Lowell Observatory and Discovery Channel. An estimated $13 million in lodging has already been logged from sales related to the eclipse as of December 2023.

In Austin, where officials have already declared a state of emergency, the state capital ranks second for all eclipse destinations for hotel rooms booked. Downtown hotel occupancy for Sunday, April 7, is 23% higher than it was on the same day last year.

The Alamo region in San Antonio ranks third as the greatest travel destination. The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is hosting nine eclipse watching events as well as Six Flags Fiesta Texas and other venues. Some areas in this region are expected to have a totality duration of more than three minutes, others will experience a partial eclipse.

Throughout Texas from Airbnb to Booking.com, lodging facilities appear to be price gouging, according to online searches as of April 6. Overall, the highest rates appear to be in Waco. Rental listings for one night on Sunday, April 7, range from two manufactured homes for $371 and $475, respectively, a tiny home for $685, a room in a Hewitt home for $291, all before taxes and fees. Residents are also renting spaces on their properties for tents – with no running water or electricity – for over $100 a night before tax; a barn in Riesel is renting for $314 a night before tax. Booking.com lodgings range from $190 to $609 before taxes and fees.

On the same night, rooms in Austin homes are renting for $200 on Airbnb; Booking.com lodgings range from $125 to $1,399, all before taxes and fees.

In other towns along the path of totality on the same night, Booking.com listings range from $150 to $350 in Waxahachie, from $200 to $400 in Corsicana, and up to $900 in Dallas, before taxes and fees.

State agencies have also been providing information to travelers. Nearly all 31 state parks along the path of totality are sold out, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says. It has also posted information about viewing safety.

The Texas Department of Transportation issued a warning about road safety pointing travelers to DriveTexas.org to find traffic delays and other information.

It warns, “There will be a significant increase in traffic across the State due to the impact of the Eclipse. Motorists should expect major delays and allow for extra travel time. Plan to arrive early, stay put, leave late, and use extreme caution. It is against Texas Law to drive around barricades. Watch for emergency response personnel, and obey all traffic laws.”

Motorists can use the Drive Texas map and can toggle on a Google Maps overlay to potentially avoid traffic jams, TxDOT says. Drivers can also call an automated 24-hour helpline at 800-452-9292.

Travelers may be disappointed, however, since most of the state is expected to be under cloud coverage and experience rain and/or thunderstorms, weather forecasters say.

WFAA Dallas weather forecaster Pete Delkus said, “The odds of clear skies on eclipse day in North Texas is 0%. That’s bad news, of course. High clouds are very likely, and the unfortunate truth is, they could be a little on the dense side. Optimal viewing in North Texas is still looking unlikely.”

The north Texas region is also expected to experience severe thunderstorms.

My San Antonio posted a map saying the area may be the worst to view the eclipse. “Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Monday, April 8, is increasingly showing signs the skies over South Central Texas will be littered with clouds. In fact, the latest cloud coverage forecast from the National Weather Service shows not only San Antonio but much of the region, including the Texas Hill Country, as having low visibility during the eclipse. In fact, a recent map shows just about all Texas cities in the path of totality could have low visibility come April 8.”

According to the National Weather Service, a thunderstorm chance is expected to follow the path of totality across all of Texas on April 8.