- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on preparations in South Carolina for the total solar eclipse (all times local):

2:41 p.m.

Portions of central South Carolina have plunged into total darkness as a total solar eclipse cast a shadow on the state.

For nearly three minutes, the Columbia region was in darkness, starting at 2:41 p.m. EDT. The moon moved completely in front of the sun, and only a ring of light and gas was visible around the rim.

NASA estimates as many as 1 million visitors could be in South Carolina on Monday to view the eclipse. The eclipse was last expected to be visible in the Charleston area before moving out to sea.

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2:20 p.m.

Shadows are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping as South Carolina plunges further into solar eclipse.

Only a sliver of the sun remained visible at around just before 2:30 p.m. as the moon moved further and further in front of it. Total eclipse was expected to reach Columbia area at around 2:41 p.m. and last for 2 minutes, 36 seconds.

The sequence of eclipse visibility began in Columbia at around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, with a small portion of the sun blocked out by the moon.

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1:30 p.m.

The moon has begun overtaking the sun for viewers of the total solar eclipse in South Carolina.

The sequence of eclipse visibility began in Columbia, South Carolina, at around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, with a small portion of the sun blocked out by the moon. Total darkness was expected to begin at 2:41 p.m.

In Columbia, the event is expected to last 2 minutes, 36 seconds. That’s among the longest periods of totality in the country. Forecasters expected mostly sunny weather in the area.

NASA estimates as many as 1 million visitors could be in South Carolina on Monday to view the eclipse.

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12:30 p.m.

South Carolina has shut down two rest areas in one of its highest-traffic areas as people flood the state to view the total solar eclipse.

The state Department of Transportation says two rest areas on Interstate 95 and two on I-26 26 in the central and southeast parts of the state were closed in both directions Monday due to overflow capacity.

The department says traffic volume is high on the state’s roadways but interstate speeds were registering at normal levels.

No major traffic incidents had been reported.

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Noon

Both of South Carolina’s political parties are capitalizing on the total solar eclipse in fundraising campaigns.

In an email entitled “‘Eclipse’ the Democrats!” the South Carolina Republican Party on Monday asked donors to contribute $20.18 toward the party’s efforts to “keep Democrats TOTALLY in the dark” in next year’s elections. Republicans currently hold all statewide elected offices and control both chambers of South Carolina’s Legislature.

In a message of their own, the state’s Democratic Party sent supporters links to recent political articles in several outlets and reminded them of work ahead of the party.

“Nobody go blind today, there’s too much work to do for Democrats all across the state!” officials said.

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11:30 a.m.

Thousands of people are lining up at a zoo in central South Carolina hoping to experience the total solar eclipse among the animals.

Officials at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia say more than 6,000 people have flocked to its gates ahead of the eclipse expected for later in the day. That’s more than twice what attendance would typically be on such a day.

In Columbia, the event is expected to last 2 minutes 36 seconds. That’s among the longest periods of totality in the country. Forecasters expected mostly sunny weather in the area.

NASA estimates as many as 1 million visitors could be in South Carolina on Monday to view the eclipse.

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11 a.m.

Officials in Columbia have set up a variety of public viewing areas for Monday’s total solar eclipse.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department says it will have eclipse glasses available Monday in Drew, Finlay, Owens Field, Riverfront and Southeast Parks. There will also be public restrooms and water stations.

The total eclipse will cast a shadow that will race through 14 states, starting in Oregon at 1:16 p.m. EDT and exiting near Charleston at 2:47 p.m. EDT.

In Columbia, the event is expected to last 2 minutes 36 seconds. That’s among the longest periods of totality in the country. Forecasters expected mostly sunny weather in the area.

NASA estimates as many as 1 million visitors could be in South Carolina on Monday to view the eclipse.

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7:20 a.m.

Thousands of people from around the world have gathered in Columbia, where the total solar eclipse is expected to last longer than most places in the country.

NASA estimates as many as 1 million visitors could be in South Carolina on Monday to view the eclipse.

The total eclipse will cast a shadow that will race through 14 states, starting in Oregon at 1:16 p.m. EDT and exiting near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:47 p.m. EDT.

In Columbia, the event is expected to last 2 minutes 36 seconds. That’s among the longest periods of totality in the country.

The University of South Carolina pushed student move-in back a day to Tuesday to avoid eclipse-day congestion. Organizers say more than 100 eclipse events have been scheduled in the Columbia area.

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