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Carbondale, IL Planning For Massive Eclipse Crowd

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A total solar eclipse of the sun is closer than ever in Illinois.

On Monday, the path of prime viewing as the moon passes in front of the sun will stretch across the United States. It will reach its point of greatest duration just south of Carbondale, Illinois.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole reports that some Chicagoans are already set to hit the road!

Carol Guerrero Sunden, for example, who has been planning this roadtrip since February, said her trunk is packed and ready to go.

"I actually have my chairs, my blanket and a change of clothes -- got to have blankets for safety reasons," she said.

But that's not all that's on Guerrero Sunden's packing list. She's also bringing a camera, complete with a tripod and filters, and plenty of batteries.

"When we get in the car we're not stopping unless we're out of gas," she said.

The 330-mile journey from Chicago to Carbondale, which is the closest location for optimal viewing, is normally a five-and-a-half hour drive. However, as thousands are expected to head to the small town to take in the site, this trip could take longer.

Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017 map
Map of total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 (Credit: NASA).

Tourism officials in Carbondale are planning free viewing events, with the viewing path stretching 75-miles wide. Additionally, most communities have canceled days off for emergency personnel and at hospitals to handle the crowds.

According to Cinnamon Smith, who's with the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau, they have been planning for 50,000 people, but said they are anticipating that number to increase by another 10,000 people or so. If only 60,000 go, Carbondale's population will triple in size. Smith said they are both excited and nervous at the same time.

Airbnb reports 220 bookings in the area on the day of the eclipse. The bookings vary from campers in empty fields to townhouses.

"Everyone seems to be kind of amped up, but people have a lost of questions. Nobody really knows what to expect," said Nicholas Doneff, who's renting his townhome out for $500.

Guerrero Sunden bought protective solar specs last week. When wearing them she said she could not see anything -- "it is totally pitch black!"

In an effort to combat fraud, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) posted a list of verified vendors and websites where eclipse glasses are sold.

The Adler Planetarium ordered 200,000 pairs of glasses and shared thousands with Chicago Public Libraries to be distributed for free. In fact, the demand for them was so high that most branches were out of their supplies within an hour.

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