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Solar eclipse in Pa. to affect everything from voting deadlines to school closures

The moon covers the sun as it creates a total eclipse.
Timothy D. Easley
The moon covers the sun as it creates a total eclipse, Monday, August. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky.

You thought Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow commanded attention in Pennsylvania? Just wait until April 8.

As a solar eclipse crosses the state, many schools will close early, drivers will be at increased risk and even the ability to register to vote might be impaired.

The totality of the eclipse will touch Erie, Crawford, Warren and Mercer counties. Cities such as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia will still see coverage over 90%.

Here’s how this shadow stands to affect life in Pennsylvania.

Voter registration

Erie County is expecting between 50,000 to 250,000 additional people, said Chief Clerk Karen Chillcott.

April 8 is also the final day to register to vote in the 2024 primary.

That created a dilemma for the Great Lakes county: how do we get people registered if the streets are crowded with tourists?

The solution: Extend the deadline to April 9.

This was no simple task as the deadline is set by the state. Chillcott said officials had been in talks with the Department of State and the governor’s office.

“Ultimately, it was decided that any court of competent jurisdiction would be able to make an extension of the deadline to register to vote,” she said.

The county filed a petition with the Court of Common Pleas allowing it to move the deadline to April 9.

Soon after, county commissioners passed a resolution officially moving the date.

Other concerns

When looking at the eclipse, be sure to wear eclipse glasses. Regular sunglasses will not protect your eyes.

But PennDOT is imploring drivers to not wear eclipse glasses while operating a vehicle.

Additionally, drivers should exit highways rather than stop on the side of the road should they choose to view it.

Myles Snyder, communications director for Pennsylvania State Police, said disabled vehicles will be removed from Interstate 90 around Erie beginning April 4.

On the day of the eclipse, troopers will be posted at each exit along the interstate to ensure nobody is slowing traffic.

Additionally, people stopped at rest stops will be directed by troopers to view the eclipse elsewhere.

Cell service

Cell phone service could be overloaded by high volume.

During the 2017 eclipse, AT&T saw spikes in usage in the southeastern United States throughout the day.


Many districts have already announced schedule changes for that day either to avoid increased traffic or allow students to witness the rare event.

Erie’s school districts will be on different schedules with some districts going remote, others canceling and some dismissing early.

Crawford County schools will close early that day.

Schools outside of the totality may also operate on a different schedule, so be sure to check your local district.

For instance, school districts from Lancaster to State College to Altoona will all close early.