HOULTON, Maine — The total eclipse of the sun is barely 10 months away and there’s no postponing this rare natural event that may draw between 40,000 and 80,000 visitors to a town of barely 6,000 people.

As the last stop of totality — when the moon will completely cover the sun on April 8, 2024, before crossing the border into New Brunswick — Houlton is gaining national attention because of its location, said town eclipse planners during a public information meeting Tuesday night at Houlton Middle High School.

That attention could include the  Weather Channel as an eclipse broadcast location, according to Johanna Johnston, co-chair of the eclipse planning committee. But the Weather Channel said it is considering many locations and that no one is at the top of the list at this point.

The last total solar eclipse in Maine was on July 20, 1963, and the path of totality was southwest of The County.

“We want to make this an event to remember and create future visitation to the town,” said Johnston.

It’s a monumental task to make plans for feeding, lodging, transportation, traffic patterns, law enforcement, trash, porta potties, emergency routes and even the best viewing locations. The committee has been talking to towns around the nation that have experienced such an influx of visitors for a total eclipse as the committee plans, Johnston said.

The eclipse viewing time in Houlton is 3.32 minutes. The centerline of the eclipse is about 8 miles north of Houlton on U.S. Route 1 near Littleton, giving an extra second and a half of viewing at that location, according to eclipse experts.

In Bridgewater, it will be 3 minutes, 16 seconds; Presque Isle, 2 minutes, 48 seconds of totality; and Caribou, 2 minutes, 10 seconds.

Houlton Chief of Police Tim DeLuca said they have been working on creating traffic patterns that include keeping lanes open for emergency vehicles to get to specific locations within the town.They are also considering placing emergency responders at three different locations within the town, he said.

Police have identified choke points as people exit Interstate 95 and are creating traffic patterns and locations where law enforcement can keep traffic moving, DeLuca said.

DeLuca said they are still working on parking plans and also law enforcement considerations with so many people coming to the area.

“This is extensive and takes complex planning,” DeLuca said, referring to some towns that have had 100,000 visitors for a total eclipse.

Some of the biggest challenges include feeding and housing so many people, said Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce executive director Jane Torres, who is co-chairing the event planning.

“Businesses need to stock their shelves and restaurants need to prepare for the masses,” Torres said.

During the meeting she called on the public and area churches to help with feeding so many through church meals and locals housing people in extra rooms or cabins. Johnston added that people won’t mind staying in motels or other lodging even several hours away and traveling to Houlton for the actual eclipse.

The committee has planned several events including a kick-off party, 3.35 kilometer road race, holding the annual Blackfly Brewfest that weekend, a well-known comedian coming to perform and craft fairs, Torres said.

The town is seeking volunteers for the weekend and entrepreneurs who may want to host specific events.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Houlton area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the LA...