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This image from the NASA Eclipse Explorer website shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse over North America. (NASA/AP) This image from the NASA Eclipse Explorer website shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse over North America. (NASA/AP)

This image from the NASA Eclipse Explorer website shows the path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse over North America. (NASA/AP)

Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu
By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu March 22, 2024

Cities and town are preparing for large eclipse crowds not ‘catastrophic’ event

If Your Time is short

  • Travis County is in the path of totality of the April 8 total solar eclipse.

  • In preparation for large crowds of out-of-town visitors, a judge issued a disaster declaration to help officials and first responders plan for emergencies.

  • No spin, just facts you can trust. Here's how we do it.

A solar eclipse is coming, and viral misinformation is casting a shadow on the experience.

Ahead of the April 8 total eclipse, several social media posts claim officials in Travis County, Texas, home to Austin, are not telling the public about a major calamitous event linked to the eclipse.

The caption of an Instagram video showing officials talking about school closures and emergency declarations claimed: "They know something catastrophic will happen."

In a separate post, a woman claims doom is on the horizon.

"They believe the hospitals will be full, there is going to be a lot of chaos going around, schools are going to be closed," she said. "They are asking people to have two weeks’ worth of food. No signal? Something just doesn’t add up. We have had eclipses before and we have never seen this type of stuff."

Both videos cite a news report from KTBC-TV showing city officials explaining preparations for the eclipse.

The Instagram posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

But these posts are misleading and promote conspiracy theories. We’ve seen similar posts in other areas within the path of totality. 

A Travis County judge issued a local disaster declaration March 8 in anticipation of large crowds that will increase traffic and demand for emergency responders.

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"What the disaster declaration does is it makes it easier for us to require things that are going to make it easier for emergency vehicles to get around," Judge Andy Brown told KXAN-TV, an Austin NBC affiliate.

Under the rules, people hosting large viewing parties in unincorporated parts of the county have to disclose their party on a form available to first responders.

One eclipse forecasting model predicted as many as 3.7 million people will travel from other parts of the U.S. to towns and cities within the eclipse’s path of totality. For small towns, a sudden surge in large crowds could strain unprepared emergency services.

Part of the draw is the rarity of a total eclipse, when the sun will be completely blocked by the moon for three to four minutes in most places, according to NASA. The next total solar eclipse to be seen from the contiguous U.S. will be in 2044.

(NASA’s YouTube)

Some school districts have given students the day off. "The start of the school day could be an issue for campuses and, of course, pick up, right? Dismissal could also be a real challenge," Marco Alvarado, Lake Travis Independent School District spokesperson, told Fox 7.

Large crowds in a small area using cellphones could also mean slower internet speeds; cellphone carriers have said they are working to reduce interruptions.

Travis County is not the only place in the eclipse’s path of totality that is preparing for large out-of-town visitors who would travel to view the rare astronomical event. PolitiFact has debunked claims that the Oklahoma’s National Guard’s deployment to prepare for eclipse crowds does not signal sinister motives.

We rate the claim that city officials preparing for the April 8 eclipse "know something catastrophic will happen" False.

Our Sources

Instagram video (archived link), Mar. 19, 2024

Instagram video (archived link), Mar. 20, 2024

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2024 Total Solar Eclipse, accessed Mar. 21, 2024

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Total Solar Eclipse FAQ, accessed Mar. 22, 2024

Newsweek, Texas Officials Warn Schools to Close Ahead of Solar Eclipse, Mar. 13, 2024

PolitiFact, Oklahoma National Guard's deployment for April eclipse doesn’t signal something ‘bigger’, Mar. 20, 2024

CBS News, Cellphone carriers working to keep customers connected during total solar eclipse, Mar. 21, 2024

KXAN, Which Texas cities could see nearly 500K tourists during the total eclipse?, Jan. 8, 2024 

Fox 7 Austin, Solar eclipse 2024: Central Texas school districts to close April 8, Mar. 6, 2024

Fox 7 Austin, Solar eclipse 2024: Travis County judge issues local disaster declaration, Mar. 8, 2024

Travis County Government, Count Down With Us - The Total Solar Eclipse, Mar. 21, 2024

KXAN, Eclipse preps: Central Texas judges issuing disaster declarations, Mar. 22, 2024

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Cities and town are preparing for large eclipse crowds not ‘catastrophic’ event

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