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The Small Nebraska Town Betting Big On The Solar Eclipse (HBO)

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Kate Russo, 44, is a bona fide eclipse chaser, a member of a small group of hard-core, dedicated enthusiasts who make it their life’s mission to follow and observe total solar eclipses. Russo has seen 10 total eclipses so far, traveling to places like Madagascar, Mongolia, Turkey, Tunisia, and China.

Recently, her focus has been on the United States, which is set to experience a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. Russo has spent the past year helping people living in the path of totality prepare for what’s coming.

The path for this eclipse stretches across 14 states, from Oregon all the way to South Carolina, but the majority of the 1,000 or so communities along the stretch are small; the two biggest cities are Kansas City and Nashville. Still, some 200 million Americans live within a short drive of the path, and eclipse tourism is expected to draw big crowds later this month.

Russo will be spending the big day in Grand Teton National Park, in Wyoming, leading a small tour of 30 fellow eclipse chasers who are flying in from around the world. But the majority of her focus on preparation so far has been with a cluster of small towns in Nebraska, in the middle of the path of totality. One town, Ravenna, with a population of about 1,300 is expecting anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 people to visit during the eclipse — a bit of a challenge given that Ravenna has only one hotel with just five rooms. (Russo’s advice to the town: Set up dedicated campsites to deal with the volume.)

Even though total solar eclipses happen somewhere on earth once every 18 months, they don’t come around to the same place again very often. There hasn’t been a total solar eclipse in the mainland U.S. since 1979, which means anyone under the age of 40 living here has probably never had the chance to see one. Russo is excited to share the experience with a new generation.

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