Agencies plan for extra million people during eclipse

Oregon in the path of totality on August 21

A screen grab from an OEM video on solar eclipse safety shows a family and their dog wearing specially certified glasses, July 10, 2017
A screen grab from an OEM video on solar eclipse safety shows a family and their dog wearing specially certified glasses, July 10, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The total solar eclipse will only last a relatively short time on August 21, but official agencies are making contingency plans for all types of emergencies as upwards of a million people are expected to travel to Oregon.

Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management has been working for months to be the facilitator for contact and continuity between all the smaller agencies.

Andrew Phelps, director of OEM, told KOIN 6 News, “I think the amount of planning that we’re doing is going to minimize the impacts of anything negative that could happen.”

According to Phelps, the Aug. 21 eclipse will have an impact from border to border across Oregon, which is why the OEM has been taking input and sharing information, resource requests and situation analysis with local and tribal emergency managers.

Phelps compared the OEM to being the conductors of the orchestra saying, “We don’t play all the instruments, but we want to make sure all the instruments being played are using the right piece of music and at the right tempo, stopping and starting at the right time.”

Andrew Phelps, director of OEM, talks to KOIN 6 News July 10, 2017. (KOIN)
Andrew Phelps, director of OEM, talks to KOIN 6 News July 10, 2017. (KOIN)

Towns like Lincoln City, which is in the eclipse’s path of totality, continue to plan for scenarios like emergency response times and hospital access being hampered by traffic and parking problems.

Phelps said congestion is their number one concern.

“No one’s going to be moving anywhere terribly fast, we don’t think on the 21st,” Phelps said. “We want people to try to move where they need to go as safely as possible.”

With a million extra people expected in Oregon the weekend before and days after the Monday eclipse, the agency is also concerned about communication and sanitation.

They’ve warned businesses to prepare and schedule employees for a big jump in customers, more cash transactions and possible credit card issues and waits.

People who want to enjoy the eclipse also need to prepare for this celestial event.

Individuals need to have specially certified sunglasses to look at the eclipse, and employers can also help their workers prepare.

“Just remember, before you look up, look around,” Chuck Easterly, the director of the Safe and Healthy Workplace Center at SAIF, said in a statement.

Among the SAIF recommendations: plan to stop work for a few minutes during the eclipse, let workers work from home that day, drivers shouldn’t look at the eclipse while driving, remember commuting may take longer from the extra traffic and have a plan for customers.

Eclipse Safety Tips

OEM said residents and visitors should be prepared to wait in line, whether they’re stuck in traffic or trying to go into a store. However, they suggested people take the time to enjoy the scenery and people around them.

Emergency planners also have a message for people wanting to view the eclipse. They said people should be aware and understand the dynamics in play and what can happen with an extra million people.

ODOT is making preparations for the roads to be very busy that Monday as visitors from around the world descend on Oregon, the first state in the US to experience the path of totality.

It’s the first total solar eclipse in Oregon in 38 years.