A Service of UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arkansas preparing for total solar eclipse

Plans are underway to keep residents and visitors safe during the April 8 total solar eclipse in Arkansas.

Arkansas is counting down to next month's eclipse.

On April 8, the moon will block the sun for parts of the U.S., causing the skies in parts of Arkansas to go dark for as long as four minutes. Two-thirds of the state will be in the path of totality. The eclipse will happen around 2 p.m., but a partial eclipse will last for several hours before and after the total eclipse.

On Monday, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood with members of her cabinet to talk about their plans to keep the event “safe” and “fun.”

“Many people will be coming to our state for the first time,” she said during the press conference.


Arkansas is expecting a higher-than-normal amount of traffic during the eclipse.

“If and when congestion occurs,” Sanders says, “State Police and National Guardsmen will be on call to respond to any emergencies.”

Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor said they are preparing for potential traffic problems.

“We know our transportation system will be tested,” she said.

The department created a Traffic Management Plan, which anticipates an influx of 1.5 million people coming to Arkansas, and 500,000 people inside Arkansas traveling to the path of totality. They calculated this number by looking at tourist data from the 2017 total solar eclipse.

ARDOT says most people will likely leave immediately after the eclipse is over, leaving motorists to content with terrible traffic congestion. ARDOT is urging visitors to “stay a while.”

“By staying in Arkansas longer, travelers can avoid extreme congestion,” the report says.

To cut back on traffic, ARDOT is asking people to work from home. They are also barring highway construction from April 5-9. The organization is working to review intersections and mountainous parts of the state that are not designed for high traffic volume.

“ARDOT will engage the Arkansas Trucking Association in an effort to encourage truckers to adjust their travel schedule,” the report says, adding they are hoping for a “trucking holiday” with very few commercial vehicles on the road.

Tudor says anyone who is stuck in traffic during the eclipse can go to the IDrive Arkansas website or use the app to check out traffic congestion.

Shea Lewis, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, says this has the “potential to be the largest tourism event” in the state's history. 26 state parks will be in the path of totality and will be welcoming visitors who want to experience the eclipse.


AJ Gary, secretary of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, says the event will be safe, but the “emergency center will be activated during that time.” The agency previously took part in an exercise at Camp Robinson to practice for the eclipse. They tested out possible scenarios like severe weather, traffic issues, and fuel shortages, and discussed how medical professionals and public information officers would respond during these possible events.

In a memo, the Department of Public Safety is asking its staff to avoid using cell phones during the event to avoid network congestion. Instead, they plan to use radio and communications apps.

Kristi Putnam, secretary of the Department of Human Services, says they are making sure residential facilities have a plan for the eclipse. During the event, DHS will be at "emergency function 6,” the level of emergency support involving “emergency assistance” and “temporary housing.”

Secretary of Health Renee Mallory says hospitals and emergency management personnel are preparing for the event, along with possible delayed response times during the eclipse.


Education Secretary Jacob Oliva said 103 school districts will shut down on April 8 so kids can experience the eclipse.

“Every student will be able to participate in real hands-on learning event regardless of their age and regardless of their grade,” he said, adding the department is training teachers on how to capture “this wonderful science experiment.”

He says 1 million eclipse glasses have been given to libraries who will hand them out to schools, while another million glasses have been given to schools directly.

There has only been two other times in history when Arkansas was in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse; 1834 and 1918.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.