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Drivers urged not to stop during eclipse

Drivers urged not to stop during eclipse

August 21st, 2017 by Associated Press in Missouri News

FILE - This March 9, 2016, file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. A solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, is set to star in several special broadcasts on TV and online. PBS, ABC, NBC, NASA Television and the Science Channel are among the outlets planning extended coverage of the first solar eclipse visible across the United States in 99 years. (AP Photo/File)

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Emergency responders are urging drivers to not stop on roads or pull off on shoulders to view the eclipse.

A diagonal 300-mile-long, roughly 70-mile-wide stretch from St. Joseph to Cape Girardeau will be in what's called the "path of totality" that will offer the best viewing of the total eclipse on Monday. It's the first total eclipse of the sun in 99 years that will be visible coast-to-coast in the U.S.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that authorities are most concerned about traffic problems during the brief span Monday when the moon totally blocks out the sun. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott White says the agency will be on the lookout for drivers parking on the highway. He says that is "always a possibility."

The Highway Patrol will have additional officers stationed on Interstate 70 and U.S. 63 and 54. White says at least one officer will be located every 20 miles on each of the highways to promote safety and mitigate any traffic issues.

The patrol also is reminding boaters to check their navigation lighting, which will need to be lit during the total eclipse.

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Missouri tourism officials expect up to 1.3 million visitors for a glimpse. Hotel rooms in prime viewing spots are mostly sold out.

Much of the best viewing is in rural areas. St. Louis and Kansas City are not in the path of totality. The Missouri Department of Transportation warns that traffic could be congested in places where it normally isn't.

Hospitals and emergency management agencies also are preparing for the total solar eclipse.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reportssome hospital systems in the St. Louis area are activating their emergency response plans, increasing staff including eye experts.

For the past month, agencies and health providers have been working together to make sure they're prepared to respond to any situation that may arise.

Nick Gragnani is director of St. Louis Area Regional Response System, a regional group that coordinates planning and communication for large-scale events and disasters. He said, "Everybody is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."

St. Louis University Hospital is prepared to increase staff by as much as 25 percent.