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North Texas county issues disaster declaration ahead of eclipse

(NewsNation) — Some communities along the path of next month’s total solar eclipse are issuing disaster declarations as the celestial event approaches in 11 days.

Kaufman County, Texas, located about 30 miles outside of Dallas, is one of the communities in the eclipse’s path now racing to prepare for the expected influx of hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Officials expect the population to double April 8, with an estimated 200,000 visitors. The majority of them are expected to gather in downtown Kaufman to witness every moment of the spectacle that will last up to four minutes.

The path of totality cuts through the central and eastern regions of the U.S., stretching from Texas to Indiana to Maine.

Kaufman County, along with other towns in the path of totality, is hosting a large watch party on the day of the eclipse, with food trucks, games and various other activities. The disaster declaration doesn’t imply people shouldn’t visit, but rather it allows authorities to mobilize additional tools and resources to help accommodate the crowds and potential gridlock traffic, according to Kaufman County officials.

While mass tourism benefits the local economy in small towns, it can strain public safety and emergency response capabilities. Some schools across Texas have announced they’re closing April 8.

Hotels are fully booked and there’s a high demand for porta-potties. At least eight counties in Texas, including Travis County, which includes the state capital Austin, have issued similar declarations.

Officials in Ohio, New York, Missouri, Kentucky and Indiana have also announced alerts in some form. Additionally, Oklahoma will deploy its Army National Guard in one county.