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Rural Western NC Braces For Surge Of Solar Eclipse Watchers

Partial solar eclipse
T. Ruen
NASA Goddard via Twitter

Small towns in western North Carolina are preparing for an influx of thousands of tourists for next week's eclipse. 

Communities like Franklin, Sylva and Cashiers could get a record number of visitors when the eclipse happens next Monday.  Highlands, N.C. mayor Patrick Taylor's town is in the path of the total eclipse. He said authorities are expecting nearby Highway 441 to be jammed all day.

"They're anticipating that being gridlocked by about 10 o'clock that day with traffic coming from Atlanta and all over north Georgia," Taylor said.  "It's just something that we've tried to prepare for as much as possible down to ordering as many Porta Potties as we can get."

There are about 1,000 permanent residents in Highlands.  Taylor says he's expecting between 10,000 and 20,000 visitors for the eclipse.

"This is something that Highlands has never seen," he said. "And here's our challenge: we have a little over 1,000 public parking spaces. If we were to see large numbers (of tourists) coming, we just don't know where people would park."

Highlands and the rest of far-western North Carolina will experience more than two minutes of darkness around 2:35 p.m. next Monday.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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