People hoping to stay in the Kansas City Metro during the solar eclipse August 21 better have made reservations months ago.
The KC Metro area has seen a large surge in hotel bookings for August 20 and 21 over the past six months with nearly every major hotel being completely sold out — some the entire week leading up to the event. But just north of the KC Metro, St. Joseph, Missouri is experiencing something the city has never seen.
St. Joseph sits on the eclipse’s line of complete totality, and the totality will last two minutes and 38.6 seconds — only 1.4 seconds short of the maximum totality time possible as the eclipse passes across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. The eclipse will begin at 11:40 a.m. in St. Joseph, with totality starting at approximately 1:06 p.m.
St. Joseph Visitors Bureau Communications Director Beth Conway said the city is experiencing a massive boom in visitors — and has no way to tell exactly how many people plan to flood the city August 21.
“We have no idea,” Conway said, laughing. “The hotels are booked up, campgrounds are booked up, but the largest group of people coming into the city are staying with family or friends, so we have no way to measure the exact number.”
Hotels have been out of rooms for the eclipse for months, and the established campgrounds have been booked up for a year, according to Conway. But people are finding other places to stay that have never been used in the city.
“We’ve never had a presence with industries like Air BnB, but all Air BnB locations in the area are booked up,” Conway said. “People are even opening up fields and pastures for visitors to camp.”
Conway said the visitors bureau puts its best guess at over 500,000 visitors coming into the city for the eclipse — over six-and-a-half times St. Joseph’s population of 76,700 residents, as of the 2010 census.
While Pittsburg won’t experience 100 percent totality — or as near to it as the KC Metro — it will see a 94 percent totality of the eclipse. However, Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director B.J. Harris said Pittsburg is not seeing the influx of visitors that are flocking to its northern neighbors.
Pittsburg State University and KOAM/FOX14 will host an eclipse watch party on the PSU campus and be giving away 1,000 pairs of eclipse glasses. The eclipse will begin in Pittsburg around 11:41 a.m. and last until 2:38 p.m., with the peak time being 1:10 p.m.
People hoping to see the eclipse near totality who can’t find a room to the north, may do well to look to Pittsburg, where several area hotels said they still have a number of rooms available for August 20 and 21.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.