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Eclipse Express: Interest surges in flights to only major city with clear skies in ‘zone of totality’

Simon Calder’s Travel

Planes to Montreal are departing with almost every seat filled – as eclipse chasers converge on the Canadian city for an astonishing astronomical event.

During Monday’s total solar eclipse, the moon will blot out the sun along a 115-mile-wide “zone of totality” – a stripe of darkness sweeping across North America from Mexico’s Pacific coast to Atlantic Canada.

Climatic records going back decades showed the chances of clear skies were highest in the southwest US, with the prospect of cloud cover increasing later in the day as the eclipse moved northeast towards Canada.

Many eclipse chasers committed several years ago to organised expeditions mainly based in Texas. Hotel rates in American cities along the zone of totality have doubled or trebled, according to research carried out for The Independent.

But nature is having the final say on how many people will enjoy the heavenly performance. As Mark Twain said: “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.”

An eclipse weather map issued by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts cloud along almost all the track across America.

Texas is now expected to be beneath heavy cloud. The same goes for a large majority of locations in the zone of totality, including Niagara Falls – where a state of emergency has been declared due to the expected number of eclipse viewers.

The only expected breaks in the clouds are likely to be a small patch of the Midwest (parts of Missouri and Indiana), southern Quebec and northern Maine. That leaves Montreal, with a population of 1.8 million, as the only big city where a clear view of totality is almost guaranteed.

Such is the demand for flights from last-minute decision-makers that Sunday’s two earlier flights from London to Montreal, on Air Transat and Air Canada, departed full. British Airways only has a handful of seats in premium economy (priced at £2,186 one way) and business class (£7,295).

Data provided to The Independent by the hotel industry analyst Lighthouse shows accommodation rates have more than trebled in some cities beneath the zone of totality.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, room prices for 7 April are currently 223 per cent higher than on the same day last year, with the average rate rising from $116 to $374.

Rates in San Antonio in Texas and Indianapolis are over 150 per cent higher, while those in…

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