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Excitement building in the US over coast-to-coast solar eclipse

Washington (dpa) - Will Monday's solar eclipse lead to the worst traffic chaos in US history? Will visitors overrun campsites and National Parks?

It's hard to say, but one thing's for sure: the phenomenon will be the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in the United States in 99 years.

Preparations for what is being called the "Great American Eclipse" are in full swing, including an online marketing blitz for eclipse glasses, commemorative stamps and T-shirts saying "Eclipse it!"

Astronomers and star-gazers alike are looking forward to it with great anticipation.

"This will be the most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history," said University of Redlands, California astronomer Tyler Nordgren.

"This will be like Woodstock 200 times over - but across the whole country," said Alex Young, solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Much of the excitement will be in the so-called "zone of totality" stretching from Lincoln Beach, Oregon on the west coast, to Charleston, South Carolina on the east coast.

Around 12 million people in 14 states will be in the zone, which is about 100 kilometres wide. Astronomers say it will fall into an eerie darkness lasting about two minutes as the eclipse moves across the US. Animals will become very quiet and the temperature will drop.

Observers outside that path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun's disk. In fact, everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse.

"But if you're in an area where the sun is even 99.9 per cent covered, it won't be the same thing. You have to get inside the path of totality to experience the phenomenon of darkness in the middle of the day," astrophysicist Laura Penny told the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper.

Officials in the state of Oregon in the north-western United States expect masses of solar eclipse visitors because that is where the best chances for clear skies are.

The flood of visitors comes at the same time wildfire danger and summer tourism are peaking.

"It literally could not be happening at a worse time," Jean Nelson-Dean, public information officer for Deschutes National Forest in Oregon told news website

The nightmare scenario is a wildfire breaking out while roads are clogged with cars and camp grounds filled with people.

Public campsites in Oregon have been completely booked for a long time, and 1,000 additional spots, made available in April, were gone within an hour.

People still searching for a campsite must turn to farms, churches or parking lots - and it will not be cheap. A privately owned "Eclipse Camp" offers campsites for four nights for about 500 dollars.

Some people are going to great heights for a spectacular view. However, officials warn that inexperienced hikers should not attempt to climb dangerous mountains like Mount Jefferson which is almost 3,200 metres high.

"A lot of people who've called clearly don't know what they're getting into," said one ranger.

Officials in California are concerned about the eclipse's impact on the solar power industry.

"Our solar plants are going to lose over half of their ability to generate electricity during the two to two and a half hours that the eclipse will be impacting our area," Steven Greenlee, spokesperson for the California Independent System Operator told the website Vox. Officials are asking Californians to conserve energy during th

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