By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
About this time one year ago, everyone was told to get excited about the total solar eclipse that will pass over Keizer on Aug. 21 and travel a path across the lower United States.
As the celestial event looms, messages from public officials have started sounding like residents should be preparing for a doomsday event with encouragements to stock up on gas and basic supplies.
The reality? It’s probably somewhere in between.
“There’s nothing really definitive because we don’t have locked down numbers yet,” said Lt. Andrew Copeland of the Keizer Police Department.
Regional public safety officials are expected to meet in a closed-door session on July 18, but estimates regarding the number of visitors the Salem-Keizer area can expect to see have ranged from 100,000 to a half million. Copeland said it’s likely to be on the lower end of that spectrum, but nothing is set.
State officials expect about 1 million people to travel to Oregon to take part in the planned and spontaneous activities, but many will likely peel away from Interstate 5 to areas where ambient lights are less likely to interfere with the viewing.
Still, Copeland said Keizer police are doing all they can to prepare.
“We will try to have reserves and cadets at Keizer Rapids Park during the concerts planned for that event and we will have two overtime officers on duty throughout the weekend,” Copeland said.
On the day of the eclipse, Copeland said the department will have every officer they can in uniform and on the streets to deal with expected traffic.
“It might come down to manning intersections to try to get people to I-5, but we’re not sure how backed up the highway will be either,” Copeland said.
The largest potential concern from Copeland’s perspective is that each local agency is going to need to be self-reliant in the run-up to and aftermath of the eclipse. Assisting other agencies might be a logistic impossibility.
“I don’t anticipate any problems because we don’t expect disruptive behavior,” Copeland said. “Otherwise, fill up about a week before the eclipse, get together with your family and call it history.”
Oregon Department of Transportations officials said to expect crowding on highways throughout the state. Drivers should plan to arrive early and stay late to help ease the traffic burden and the stress of travel.
Drivers should also be aware that normal travel paths may change, ODOT construction zones and non-emergency maintenance will halt between Aug. 18 and 22; truck scales will be closed and hundreds of extra roadside readerboards are expected to be deployed on the state’s highways.
While many businesses are planning their own activities, other interruptions can be expected. Deliveries may be delayed due to traffic and power and utility complications may arise.
Businesses and residents have been encouraged to stock up on necessities like medications, water, toiletries and a food in case visitors deplete local stocks.
Oregon’s SAIF Corporation, which supplies workers’ compensation insurance and other services, is encouraging business owners talk with employees about what plans are for the day of the eclipse and encourage telecommuting. SAIF officials also suggest purchasing eclipse glasses for employees and customers for safe viewing during the eclipse.