Eclipse roundtables ‘like preparing for a hurricane’ in the Hill Country

DRIPPING SPRINGS, TX (KXAN) – The Hill Country Alliance, a non-profit focused on conserving and protecting the Texas Hill Country, will host the latest of its Hill Country Eclipse Roundtables on July 25th. The total solar eclipse, happening on April 8th, 2024, is expected to bring thousands of people to Central Texas.

“Think of it kind of like preparing for a hurricane. You want to be totally prepared and self sufficient ready so that you don’t need to go into H-E-B on the day of,” said Katherine Romans, Executive Director of the Hill Country Alliance.

The roundtables bring together eclipse committees from across the area to learn how other committees are handling the expected crowds, but also to get tips from communities that have dealt with past eclipses.

“These eclipses are gonna be a historic opportunity for the Hill Country, and also present historic challenges,” Romans said.

An eclipse moves over the Hill Country

Total solar eclipses occur roughly every 18 months somewhere on the planet. The events brings thousands of visitors to what’s called the path of totality. This is where the eclipse is darkest for longest. Next April, the path of totality will move directly over the Hill Country.

The Hill Country Alliance began hosting their roundtables in October of 2020. They’ve hosted virtual meetings every quarter since then in the lead up to the eclipse.

“It’s helped them to understand that one, they’re not alone in their preparations, and to to have other communities to rely on,” said Dawn Davies, Program Manager for the Hill Country Alliance.

Davies said that over 500 people are members of eclipse committees across the area. While smaller communities, like San Saba, are hosting one event during the eclipse, others are hosting several.

“We really want communities to be thinking about safety, traffic, and public resources that really need to be mobilized to handle that volume of people,” Romans said. Past eclipses, like in 2017, saw millions of people traveling to witness the eclipse as it moved across the United State.

Providing experience from eclipse communities

This quarter’s event will have special guest speaker Trish Erzfeld. “She’s with the Perry County Historical tourism board for Perry County, Missouri,” Davies said.

“She’s had familiarity and experience working in small rural communities, which makes up a vast amount of our Hill Country, and especially those that are on the path of totality.”

A backlog of past meetings and past speakers is available on The Hill Country Alliance’s eclipse portal.

Some of the lessons’ past speakers have imparted included preparing for traffic and, if you can, just staying home. “We’re encouraging those folks that can stay where they live to do so. But also be prepared for the amount of traffic,” Davies said.

For people who don’t live in the Hill Country, the advice is to plan ahead.

“Hotels and Airbnb’s are already booking up for April. So now is the time to be making your plans to enjoy this historic event in the hill country,” Romans said.

After the eclipse, the non-profit will help prevent littering by collecting eclipse glasses.

“We are hoping to tap into is the network of folks within the astronomers without borders,” Davies said. “They provide services such as recycling eclipse glasses to other communities across the globe that may not have resources to purchase or obtain their own glasses.”

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