CARBONDALE — At first, things stayed quiet. Visions of endless gridlock and empty grocery store shelves seemed like unfounded paranoia, and Carbondale’s downtown was no more bustling than it would have been on any other Southern Illinois University move-in weekend.
Then, Sunday night and Monday morning, by train and by car, people chasing the Great American Eclipse arrived.
Based on crowd counts, Carbondale city officials estimate that the eclipse brought as many as 50,000 people to the city proper; according to the Illinois Office of Tourism, 200,000 people traveled to the 16-county region.
“Tents sprung up all over town, on Walmart property, on church property, like little overnight mushrooms,” Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “A lot, a lot of people came into town (Sunday) night, immediately prior to the eclipse.”