Millions arriving in US to catch glimpse of solar eclipse

Charleston, Aug 21: Today, when a total solar eclipse sweeps across the United States for the first time in 99 years, people gathering in Charleston, South Carolina, will be the last on the continent to experience it. 

They are ready.

Historic Charleston, with its cobblestone streets and elegant antebellum mansions, was a-bustle on Sunday in full pre-eclipse mode.

Its restaurants were packed and downtown parking was at a premium as excited locals and tourists strolled cheerfully along the seafront Battery promenade. 

"It has been crazy since Friday night," said bar owner Chaz Wendell. 

"This is probably going to be our busiest weekend all year." 

Weather predictions for today were iffy -- with clouds and scattered thunderstorms predicted through the hours when the eclipse is due, from the moment when the moon first obscures a small arc of the sun, to totality, and through the end of the whole cosmic viewing experience.

For locals, and for those who have come from far away, it is a big deal.

"We're very excited," said Brandy Mullins, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother who moved to Charleston six weeks ago with her family.

She and her three children all have solar glasses and are planning to watch the eclipse from an open area -- weather permitting.

"It's not looking very good," she said of the weather forecasts, "but it's OK -- we still get to experience it and see the darkness."

Nick Willder, 59, and his wife, Sarah Boylan, 60, of Nottingham, England had planned their two-week vacation through the southern US to end in Charleston in time for the eclipse.

It will be their third try to see a total eclipse: earlier attempts in England and China, Willder said, were both rained out.

News24 Bureau/PTI