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As Eclipse Day unfolded, dozens of officials kept a watchful eye on the state from inside the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency's operations center.

Information on the movement of a huge volume of traffic westward into prime viewing areas dominated the morning hours before the drama of the total solar eclipse began.

"It looks like about half the population of Omaha is heading west," came an early morning assessment signaling that the long-awaited exodus was underway.

A follow-up report delivered at an hourly briefing that shared information among state and local agencies added an exclamation point: "Traffic bumper to bumper out of Omaha."

Manning cellphones, iPads and other technology, officials kept track of the drama as it swept across the state while large TV screens added weather updates.  

Soon, the Nebraska State Patrol filled a large TV screen with live video from a helicopter showing the stream of traffic snaking westward along I-80 in real time.

Meanwhile, information kept flowing in from across the state.

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With the total solar eclipse an hour away, Bryan Tuma, assistant director of NEMA, was cautiously pleased with how the day's events had unfolded, but also focused on the return journeys yet to come when the traffic flow would turn back eastward.

"People have to be careful," he said.

Tuma is former superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol.

NEMA began its planning for the solar eclipse and the arrival of a huge influx of visitors from across the nation and from other countries a year ago. And it has been heavily focused on the event for the last two months.

"I credit local folks for working on their event planning," Tuma said. "They were looking very hard at the issues that they needed to consider. They did a really good job."

-- Don Walton

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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