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Fort Smith police prepare for traffic congestion as hotels fill up for the eclipse

By Brett Rains

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    FORT SMITH, Arkansas (KHBS , KHOG) — The city of Fort Smith is located just outside the path of totality for the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse in Arkansas, but it is the regional hub for restaurants and hotels in the River Valley.

“We’re anticipating a lot of visitors in our city,” said Capt. Daniel Grubbs with Fort Smith police.

Signs are posted throughout the city warning drivers to expect delays during the eclipse as people make their way to central and southern Arkansas to be in the path of totality, where the moon will completely block out the sun for more than four minutes in some locations.

“Rogers Avenue has the potential for seeing increased traffic, but also Highway 71 South,” Grubbs said. “We believe that those who are going to be traveling that area from the south are going to be utilizing Highway 71 and deciding which route to venture east.”

Many hotels in the city will be at or near capacity starting this weekend.

“We’re sitting right now at about 95% occupancy,” said Crista Carson, sales director for the Hampton Inn in Fort Smith. “We’re seeing guests from all over the United States and even Canada.”

The hotel has nearly 200 rooms. Carson told 40/29 News that some guests started making reservations nearly one year ago for the eclipse.

“We’ve got goody bags that we’re putting in guest rooms. Moon Pies, Starburst and Capri Suns, anything that we can think of for the eclipse. The glasses, everything for their stay,” Carson said. “We want to make sure they have an enjoyable stay and want to come back to Fort Smith in the future.”

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