Eclipse chasers started arriving slowly but surely in Carbondale over the weekend ahead of the big day, though the traffic gridlock and crowds officials planned for hadn’t set in — at least yet.
Police, municipal leaders and scientists prepared for crowds of 50,000 or more to descend upon the southern Illinois town, home to Southern Illinois University, in the days preceding the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse.
Amy Fox, a spokeswoman for the city, said Sunday everything was going smoothly so far.
“We’ve seen pretty steadily more foot traffic in downtown Carbondale, a little more vehicular traffic, but everything looks clear,” Fox said.
Interstate traffic was clear, Fox said, and police didn’t encounter any issues out of the ordinary. The weekend before Aug. 21 was also move-in weekend at SIU. The city of 25,000 doubles when students come back in town.
But hotels are booked and seating at SIU’s football stadium is sold out, said eclipse event organizer Nathan Bonner, who expected the crowds to appear Monday.
“We’ll just have to see who shows up,” Bonner said.
Joe Woolbright and his daughter, Allison, of Bethalto, showed up for an Eclipse Expo at SIU, where scientists gave demonstrations and presentations.
Woolbright said he planned to go to Sparta to watch the eclipse Monday. He said Sunday was a good day to visit Carbondale.
“It hasn’t been busy at all,” Woolbright said.
Crowds were expected to increase Sunday night and Monday morning as visitors continued to flow in, Fox said.
“But there’s a really good feeling in Carbondale,” Fox said.
Check back at bnd.com for ongoing coverage of the eclipse.