Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 21 Solar Eclipse

Idahoans gear up for the Solar Eclipse 

Mackay-The long awaited solar eclipse is now just three weeks away.

No one knows how many people will come to Idaho to see the state's only total solar eclipse of the 21st century.

Some Idaho ranchers are getting involved in the eclipse. The Zollinger Ranch near Mackay leased out a 100-acre field along the Big Lost River 10 miles outside of town.

“We're letting Gem State Entertainment do the project,” said Jolene Zollinger. “It’s going to be a music festival with camping, vendors and it should be a real good time.”

The Zollingers don’t have an idea how many people will show up for the event.“We can accommodate 3,000 easily but can handle up to 5,000 people,” said Zollinger.

Gem State Entertainment will have porta-potties to accommodate the crowd. Campers will bring their own supplies while food vendors will help feed them. The festival will be on a harvested grass field with no campfires, fireworks or weapons and Zollinger stresses that there’ll be security at the event. She says it should be a good experience.

People can buy tickets online at under the event, Mackay Eclipse Camp-out. Tickets are $80.00 for a single ticket or $250 for a weekend family admission.

“We are centerline, just above the MacKay Dam. If you look at the map we are dead center of totality and theres not a better place on earth to see the eclipse. We’re putting all the family to work, we will have some medical staff and hopefully it’ll go smooth. There’ll be cellphone service, and enough amenities to make it a comfortable music festival,” said Zollinger.

The path of totality — where a total solar eclipse will be visible for more than 2 minutes — passes north of Boise while going through towns like Weiser, Smiths Ferry, Stanley, Mackay, Rexburg and the Driggs Victor area. The center line runs between Idaho 75 and Redfish Lake Lodge, just south of Stanley and through Mackay.

The only major metro area within the path is Idaho Falls, which will get about 1 minute, 45 seconds of totality.

The total eclipse will be the first on the mainland United States since 1979 — when Idaho was one of five states in the path of totality — and the first to cross America from coast to coast since 1918. It’s the only total eclipse that will touch Idaho this century.

Idaho communities have scurried to get ready. While some communities are excited, others worry about the number of people that will crowd the path of totality.

Two Idaho counties have sought disaster declarations three weeks before the August 21st full solar eclipse.

Payette and Washington counties are in the path of eclipse and County Commissioners declared a disaster declaration and local emergency, three weeks before the event.

County commissioners in those counties said the declaration will span from now until September 5th. The declaration covers public safety risks, financial damage and excessive costs of labor, cleanups and property damage. They hope the declaration will help the county respond to emergencies leading up to the eclipse and the aftermath weeks after the fact.

Payette County Emergency Manager Andy Creech said that the disaster declaration was a first step they had to take. “It’s something we had to do in anticipation of a disaster. This is a precautionary measure that activates response plans in preparation of the eclipse.”

The eclipse is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to the county as they head to the Weiser Payette areas, and officials are ready to handle congested traffic, car wrecks and increased medical calls along with potential range fires because of the crowds.

Across the state, Idaho Falls is also in the path of the eclipse. City officials there ordered hundreds of extra porta-potties that they’ll set up around South Tourist Park, Noise Park and Sandy Downs, all of which have been converted into temporary campgrounds during the long eclipse weekend.

“We heard that every porta-potty in the State of Idaho has been reserved for the eclipse week,” Kerry Harmon of the city of Idaho Falls.

“We ordered the porte-potties last spring, We’ve been planning for this a long time and we hope it goes off okay.”

In Portland Gov. Kate Brown activated the Oregon National Guard to help deal with tourists during the eclipse.

The National Guard will stage six aircraft and about 150 troops and airmen the weekend before the event and a few days after, if needed.

Oregon is the first state in the Union that will see the eclipse and they expect up to 1 million visitors. There too, state and local governments have planned for months to prepare for the crush of people that could jam highways and stress local resources.

All along the path of totality city and county leaders urge residents to fill their cars up with gasoline, make sure prescriptions are up to date and buy enough groceries for two weeks.

Community leaders from Portland to Weiser and  Rexburg say they’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

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