Madras officials prep as campers start trickling in

Madras is a major destination for the solar eclipse

More than 200,000 people are expected to flock to Madras, Oregon to watch the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. (KOIN)
More than 200,000 people are expected to flock to Madras, Oregon to watch the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. (KOIN)

MADRAS, Ore. (KOIN) — Eclipse-watchers are already arriving at campsites in central Oregon as emergency responders and local leaders prep for the big day.

At the Deschutes County Fairground, a joint information center is being set up for the emergency services, medial providers and transportation officials who are expecting a rush of people in the coming week.

“We are putting resources in a position where they can respond quickly,” said Peter Murphy, the spokesperson for ODOT in central Oregon said.

Complete coverage of the solar eclipse 

At least 2 dozen ground crews will patrol the highways from Bend to Madras and ODOT is also putting portable lighted signs along the way to direct motorists to various cities in advance of their exits. Crews will also be ready to tow cars if necessary.

“The crews we have positioned out in the field are authorized to hook and yank, and move people out of the way,” Murphy said. “So we’ll be doing that as necessary to keep the highways open.”

Planes are already working on fires in the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area, so helicopters for bucket drops will be stationed at the fairgrounds and in Prineville.

“The ODOT crews will have some fire extinguishing capacity with them,” Murphy said.

Medical helicopters will also stage at the fairgrounds and in Bend.

Murphy said some campgrounds will also have their own firefighting and medical services, and have given their plans to emergency operators.

Pat and Susan Farrell from Austin, Texas, are already setting up camp near Madras with their dogs.

“Madras was the place,” Susan said. “We weren’t going to accept any other place.”

“We’ve been hearing all the hype about how crowded it’s going to be, no gas, no food, so we wanted to get here a week ahead of time,” Pat said.