CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Tourism officials in southern Illinois say they’re preparing now because a solar eclipse is expected to draw thousands of visitors on Aug. 21, 2017. The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan reports that it will be the first total solar eclipse over the United States mainland since 1979. The eclipse is expected to reach its point of greatest duration, about two minutes and 40 seconds at 1:21 p.m. that day, a few miles south of Carbondale. SIU officials are projecting 30,000 to 50,000 visitors on campus for the eclipse. The school has an eclipse committee. Nearby in Williamson County, tourism officials are working now to market the region and make sure local businesses are aware of potential increased visitors. Help also is possible through a pending $42,000 federal rural development grant.

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