Texas county issues state of emergency ahead of eclipse tourism surge

A Texas county issued a state of emergency Wednesday ahead of the total solar eclipse predicted to take place in April to prepare residents for the upcoming tourism surge.

Bell County is expecting its population to double days prior to April 8, when the moon will block the sunlight for a few minutes by lining up perfectly between the Earth and the sun, plunging the sky into darkness, according to NASA.

Officials are expecting “extreme” traffic congestion, fuel shortages and strains on first responders due to the event. The county’s population is around 400,000.

The declaration authorizes the county to require property owners in unincorporated areas to register with the Bell County Emergency Management Office if they are hosting watch parties that exceed 50 people. The owners need to provide “adequate” bathrooms, waste disposal and wastewater solutions.

The emergency declaration will also further inform first responders and public safety officials when traffic hits a standstill.

During this period, the county is advising people to purchase groceries in advance, refuel their cars and restock on prescriptions. Officials caution residents that cellular reception might be spotty, therefore using a landline is preferred. In case of an emergency, residents are urged to call or text 911, according to the county.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.