On August 21, 2017, beginning about 10:15 a.m., the world will go dark — if you happen to be standing between Waldport and Lincoln City. A total solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes in front of the sun, will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow over the central region of the state. Observers within that shadow, known as the path of totality, will experience complete darkness for two and a half minutes.

Gearing up for one of nature’s rarest celestial events — and the influx of one million visitors that is expected to come along with it — is no easy task. While the eclipse will take less than 15 minutes to cross the state, the preparation for such a huge event will take weeks, according to local emergency managers.

“Since August is already prime vacation season in many areas, we’re expecting areas along the path of totality to be above capacity for nearly a week total,” says Erik Rau, emergency management planner at the Oregon Military Department Office of Emergency Management. Anticipating heavy traffic congestion, Oregon Department of Transportation is planning to halt all construction projects, including along Highway 101 and Highway 18.

Along the Central Coast, members of the tourism industry, state land managers, emergency management personnel and other organizations came together in March to share information, network and learn more about what to expect on August 21st. Astronomer Tom Carrico kicked off the event by giving everyone an astronomy lesson.

“That provided a great grounding for the group,” says Jackie Mikalonis, Regional Solutions  coordinator for the South Valley/Mid-Coast Region, who convenend and facilitated the meeting.

“The single most important thing that business owners and managers can do is to reach out to their local public safety and emergency management organizations before an event,” Rau says. “If you have never spoken to your local emergency manager, county Sheriff’s office, fire district or department, police department, or even local public health official, do so weeks or months before the big day. While many of these organizations focus on urgent response resources, many have public education or business-oriented programs, as well.”

Here are some additional things Rau recommends keeping in mind if you are a business located in the path of totality:

    • Prepare for a big jump in customers. Grocery stores, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, transportation services, coffee shops, retail stores, urgent care clinics and many other establishments will experience a jump in business. Order goods and schedule staff accordingly.
    • Determine your restroom policy. Be aware that many visitors will be camping in both authorized and unauthorized locations. Expect customers who may be primarily interested in using rest rooms. How will you handle that?
    • Encourage employees to have a full tank of gas prior to the time visitors begin to arrive in the area. Lines for fuel may occur and you’ll want staff to be able to get to work.
    • Be prepared for more cash transactions. Businesses might experience challenges with credit/debit card transactions taking longer than usual because of increased volume.  Consider setting up extra tills to accommodate more cash transactions.
    • Be prepared for cell service overloads. There may be service disruptions due to the increase in visitors using networks. Visitors may have urgent requests to use your business telephone line if they are having trouble with cell service. Think about how you want to handle these requests and make sure that your employees know what to do.
    • Discuss schedules with suppliers. Some suppliers may be considering delivery schedule changes due to the solar eclipse and related events. Suppliers may also be looking at how the increased traffic on rural roads may impact delivery times.
    • Invest in extra garbage and recycling cans and clearly label them for visitors. Many people visiting Oregon for the first time might not be aware of our recycling laws.
    • Consider setting up a water refill station. Help cut back on plastic bottle waste by allowing people to refill their personal bottles at your refill station.
    • Tune into the radio. Check local radio (Yaquina Bay Communications) for live traffic updates. If an emergency such as a tsunami occurs during the solar eclipse events, tune into local media.
    • Sign up for Lincoln County Flash Alerts with the sheriff’s office. Avoid using social media as your No. 1 information source. Rumors can spread quickly and be hard to confirm.
    • Hotels and motels should be prepared for an inspection from the local fire department. See checklist here.

These tips hold true for any big event or emergency situation. Bookmark this article if you’re planning or running a business near a music festival or other large event that might impact roads, trails, noise or otherwise impact your neighbors.

2017 Solar Eclipse Resources

    • Eclipse Travel Tips (share with visitors, customers, staff) – Travel Oregon
    • General Eclipse Information – NASA

Photo by Jarett Juarez