By Stan Welch
In case you haven’t heard, next Monday is going to be kind of a big deal in the Upstate, as the total solar eclipse of the decade will be visible from our area. The relative rarity of such an event is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of viewers to the Carolinas, and especially the Upstate.
The last total solar eclipse was in 1979; the next one will be in April of 2024. But this one, dubbed the Great American Eclipse, will be visible from Oregon to South Carolina as it traverses the entire continent.
Emergency management, law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services have been preparing for the potential for trouble which could result from as many as two hundred thousand additional cars on the roadways, especially I-85. Anderson County Emergency Preparedness Director David Baker, (former Williamston police chief), said that the appropriate agencies across the Upstate are working together to get prepared for an event that they can only estimate the size of.
“We are preparing for the maximum event, but until the time comes, we really can’t know how many people will show up,” Baker said. “We are pretty certain, however, that the usual crowd for a Clemson ball game would be nowhere close to what we are anticipating.”
“Every county is preparing, and every municipality in each county needs to also have a specific plan for their jurisdictions.”
Baker said that one advantage is the fact that there are many different sites across the area that are hosting viewings and other related activities. “That will spread the traffic across a greater area, which will be a good thing. Of course, we also have to spread our resources to cover all those areas.” The SCHP will have additional troopers on the highways, and ACSO will also deploy additional deputies. EMS units will be ready to respond to any and all emergencies.
Anderson County will have events at twelve locations at least, including Green Pond Landing and the Anderson Civic Center. As to every day operations, the Council will take up the matter of closing down either early that day, or simply closing altogether. Every county in the Upstate is making its own preparations. Clemson University is also sponsoring various events, as are other colleges and universities in the Upstate.
Baker stressed that preparation at the individual level is equally important. “We are stockpiling water to have available at the various locations. August can be a very hot month, and dehydration is always a risk. We really recommend that the consumption of alcohol be very minimal at the most. Alcohol in hot conditions can dehydrate a person very quickly.”
Baker also suggested that residents do their grocery shopping and other errands well before Monday. “People won’t be waiting until the last minute to show up. Motels and hotels are already sold out, and people will be coming in during the weekend. Supermarkets are going to be hard put to keep their shelves stocked, so if you have shopping to do, the sooner the better. Also, if you don’t have to be on the roads, stay at home.”
Agencies are preparing in much the same way as they would for a pending storm event, and the individual preparations apply as well. Keep your cell phone charged. Fill your gas tank in advance, especially with such an influx of vehicles expected. Buy water and other staple food supplies, and make sure your prescription medications are up to date, and on hand.
The event itself is expected to last for about two hours, with the actual total eclipse anticipated to be two and a half minutes. Baker points out that the risk of eye damage exists throughout the two hours, and not just the time of total blackout. Most viewing venues will provide the proper eyewear, but those using binoculars or camera lenses to view or photograph the event must also have the special protection.
Baker said that it sounds silly, but a major concern is that motorists will either stop on the roadways to watch, or not stop driving at all while they watch. “Please get off the roadways and to a safe place, like a parking lot to watch this eclipse. Use the proper eye protection, and be patient with traffic and other drivers. This is a special event, but let’s all do what we can to keep it a safe event as well.”