Seneca County prepares for April 8 eclipse
BY SHERI TRUSTY
On Monday, April 8, 2024, thousands of people are expected to travel to Seneca County to experience one of the best views of the total solar eclipse in the country, and Seneca County EMA Administrator John Spahr wants to make sure the county is prepared. On Nov. 17, he hosted an eclipse event planning meeting at the Public Safety Building, where he shared information and brainstormed with representatives from county departments and organizations, local school districts and universities, and First Responders.
Visitors are expected to arrive as early as Friday, April 5. The influx of thousands of guests into the county may create safety and logistical issues, including crowded roadways, limited cell and internet service, and First Responder access to emergencies. Local authorities are planning now to be prepared in April.
To keep roadways as clear as possible, Spahr is encouraging local schools, businesses and government offices to close for the day. The eclipse – from darkening skies, to complete darkness, to resumed light – will last from about 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., just as schools and many businesses are closing.
“The recommendation is to not have in-person classes that day,” Spahr said.
Agencies that must work because they provide public health, safety, maintenance or law and order services are encouraged to enroll in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireless Priority Service (WPS) which, according to the FCC website, “authorizes cellular communications service providers to prioritize calls over wireless networks.”
WPS is free and voluntary, but potential users must apply for the service. More information can be found at www.fcc.gov/general/wireless-priority-service-wps.
County law enforcement and fire departments plan to be fully staffed for the event, and Sheriff Fredrick Stevens will utilize reserve units as well. The added manpower, gas and miscellaneous costs created by heightened security and emergency service during the eclipse will be funded by a state grant. The $1 million grant, which will fund emergency services in the Ohio counties affected by the eclipse, was secured through the help of State Rep. Gary Click.
“Rep. Click worked on this with me and other EMA directors to make this happen,” Spahr said. “I would like to publicly thank Rep. Click for helping push this through.”
Spahr wants local residents to understand the potential scope of impact the eclipse event could have on county residents. Clogged streets may prevent daily activities such grocery shopping and purchasing medication, and gas stations may not be able to meet the fuel demands of thousands of cars.
“Our citizens need to plan ahead,” Spahr said. “Shop the week before. Get gas the week before. Buy your medications a week ahead.”
While the county is making necessary safety preparations for the event, Destination Seneca County is planning for the fun. Seneca County Solar Eclipse of the Heart, which runs from April 5 through April 8, will provide visitors and local residents the opportunity to enjoy Seneca County’s unique recreational and entertainment opportunities.
On its website, Destination Seneca County offers event information, including a countdown clock, shopping and dining options, lodging and camping resources, and a local eclipse timeline. Learn more at www.destinationsenecacounty.org/2024-solar-eclipse-in-seneca-county.