IDAHO FALLS — The once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse is less than a month away and preparations are underway for the big event.
A community meeting was held July 26 in Idaho Falls where officials discussed what they believe will happen on Aug. 21.
Here are ten things key takeaways from the meeting.
1. THIS REALLY IS A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME EVENT.
“It is the first eclipse that has crossed the entire country since about 1918,” Brigham Young University-Idaho science professor Brian Tonks said. “The last time we had a solar eclipse that even touched the lower 48 states was back in 1991 and the last time we had a solar eclipse that came close to our region was in 1979.”
2. PEOPLE WILL BE COMING TO EAST IDAHO.
“NASA Experts tell us that for every one person we think will be coming here, we should probably multiple that number by five,” Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper said.
Some predict up to 500,000 people will be in east Idaho on eclipse day.
3. THOSE PEOPLE ARE COMING BECAUSE EAST IDAHO IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES IN THE COUNTRY TO SEE THE ECLIPSE.
“Of all the places in the country, there is no other place that has historically a better chance of having clear skies than where we live,” Tonks said.
4. WITH ALL THE PEOPLE, PLAN ON EXPERIENCING TRAFFIC ISSUES.
“I think the biggest issue that we may have is traffic,” Idaho Falls Police Chief Mark McBride said. “From the Sheriff’s Office and Police Department, all hands are on deck. Our staff will all be working the entire weekend. Even our detectives will be in uniform helping with this event.”
5. ITD WILL WORK TO KEEP TRAFFIC MOVING AND PORTABLE TOILETS WILL BE PLACED ON INTERSTATES AND HIGHWAYS.
“We’re not going to have any maintenance projects in progress,” said Idaho Department of Transportation engineer Ben Burke. “We’re not going to have any lanes closed and we’re not going to be doing any mowing. We are placing 50 portable toilets scattered on I-15, U.S. Highways 20, 33, 93, 28 and 22.”
6. IF YOU’RE PLANNING ON USING YOUR CELL PHONE, THINK AGAIN.
“I can tell you right now your cell phone is not going to work,” said Idaho Falls Fire Department Deputy Chief Dave Coffey. “We’re working with the wireless providers in our area and looking at putting up some COWs – Cell On Wheels. Verizon has already told us they’re not interested in doing that so I’m not sure how much traction that’s going to get.”
7. BUSINESSES SHOULD START PREPARING NOW FOR EXTRA CROWDS AND STAFF.
“I’d recommend businesses that usually have one person on staff that you probably should put a couple people there especially if phones go out,” McBride said. “Have food, water, cash and gasoline in your cars. You should probably know where your closest medical services are just in case you can’t get to the hospital or through to us.”
8. SPEAKING OF MEDICAL CARE, EMTS WILL BE BUSY.
“We plan on having so many calls that we’re going to have to establish priority based dispatching,” said Coffey. “We basically are going to have to empower our dispatchers to decide who gets an ambulance and in what order – something we haven’t had to do before.”
9. BRUSH UP ON YOUR FOREIGN LANGUAGE SKILLS.
“My office has been receiving phone calls, not just from people in Salt Lake, but from Australia, Europe, Canada and all different parts of the world,” Casper said. “(We’ve received) a few calls from tour companies in Asia so we know that the international interest in Idaho is very real.”
10. PREPARATION IS IMPORTANT.
“We would rather do everything we can to prepare then to take a “wait and see” approach,” Casper said. “We can not afford to be wrong. Not to plan is to gamble with public safety.”