Solar eclipse expected to increase small MO town's population more than 100 times over

Posted at 10:29 PM, Aug 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 14:11:06-04

Thirty-five miles outside of Kansas City is the small town of Lathrop, Missouri. 

It’s population: 2,086. 

“For a small town, it still has the small town values with a big heart,” said Mayor Dean Langner. 

But even with its “big heart” and “friendly people,” Lathrop, like many small towns, is struggling. 

“A lot of people commute and buy their groceries in Kansas City or wherever they are working, so it is a struggle for us,” said Ava Langner, who owns a coffee shop on the corner and serves as the president of the town’s chamber. 

But this town will soon see a big boom — thanks to two minutes of darkness. Lathrop is right on the center line of totality and one of NASA’s recommended locations. 

“We expect to have 50,000 to 270,000 people here,” said Langner. 

For more than seven years, the town has been planning for the solar eclipse. Residents have made t-shirts, flags, mugs and other memorabilia to sell. 

Click for complete eclipse coverage, including maps of the path and how to protect your eyes

As for policing and maintaining safety for a crowd that could be more than 100 times the size of the town’s population, the mayor said the entire police department will help patrol along with county deputies. 

The town’s volunteer firefighters are also taking a break from their other jobs to help with safety. 

As for lodging, Lathrop does not have any hotels, motels or bread and breakfasts. Instead, farmers will open their fields to campers and RVs. 

“I thought here’s this prime opportunity,” said Debbie Smith of Smith Farms. “I got the hay off of [the fields], it’s there. I am not that far off the highway. [I thought] why not? Plus, it will help the back pocket a little bit.” 

The town also plans on closing it’s Main Street to pedestrians only and turning off the street lights so people can experience the unique 2-minute darkness. 

“Hopefully everybody comes out and has a great time and helps support our community and we want to take care of them,” said Mayor Langner.