The Town of Andrews is among the smallest towns in all of Western North Carolina. Thanks to it being the only town in the state to fall directly in the path of this month’s solar eclipse, its population is expected to grow exponentially. BPR News's Davin Eldridge attended its latest town board meeting to find out how everyone in Andrews is preparing for the event…
The town of Andrews, population just under 1,800, is a small mountain community. It’s a typical evening here—just after six o’clock, and downtown is quiet. Aside from a few local teenagers skateboarding in a nearby parking lot, there’s little more in the way of traffic.
But in less than two weeks’ time, the solar eclipse will pass directly over Andrews. With all of the area’s hotels and campgrounds booked up months ago, the population of the town is expected to explode. But unlike the peaceful quiet that Andrews normally enjoys on summers like today’s, just around the corner its Town Board is feeling the heat of the upcoming eclipse. And it doesn’t help the town is facing its annual audit, or that it’s an election year.
Nevertheless, Mayor Nancy Curtis says Andrews is as prepared as it can be given the circumstances, because it’s uncertain just how many people the town can expect for the event.
“We’re the best in North Carolina, it’s something to be proud of—we’re on the map. Get out and support your local town, in that event. However, I’m going to say this: on Monday, when we don’t know how many people are going to be here—somewhere between ten thousand and Woodstock—it’ll be a good time to stay home, hunker down, be with your family and watch the eclipse—and don’t come to town.”
Curtis says since the board first began planning for the event in March, their efforts included getting locals to stock up on things like fuel, food and other amenities early, so that area businesses have a chance to re-stock.
“Because I have a feeling by about Saturday, we may run out of gas around here, at least by Sunday. And the stores by Tuesday morning might be empty. We’re preparing for the best scenario, but we do not know how it could be.”
Town planners recently suggested the town declare a state of emergency, which the board voted to allow. This would in effect suspend enforcement of the town’s development ordinance to encourage camping throughout the area.
“At that time the police are going to be really tied up with all the public safety, and we can’t enforce any kind of ordinances during at this time and we’re happy that people will have family and friends here.”
After putting up eight thousand dollars, the town is sponsoring a three-day festival prior to the eclipse. It’s already recouped most of the money, however that hasn’t diminished the strain on local resources, or the anxiety of town board itself. With just 25 municipal employees, the board is always seeking volunteers, according to town clerk—and, now events coordinator, Denise Bowden.
“The key is southern hospitality. We have no idea how many ppl are coming. There’s no way to project that. We know there’ll be some frustration, but we’re just hoping that everybody just remembers that this is a wonderful event and we’re just excited that people are coming to share it with us.”
Despite the stress, town officials like Curtis will be glad to finally see the event through.
“We’re just happy it’s happening. We told everybody here to be great neighborly people to all the visitors that we have. We’re planning on putting our best foot forward.”
Totality will last approximately two minutes and thirty-eight-point-eight seconds in Andrews, placing the town eleventh in the country for duration of the eclipse. With the demand this creates for small towns like Andrews, it’s just not business as usual for local officials, who now find themselves handling a national event, alongside small town politics.