The Transylvania Times -

Transylvania Eclipse

 

August 14, 2017

Courtesy Photo

Brevard College students get ready for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

Next Monday's total solar eclipse may only last a minute or two depending on where you are, but preparations for the event have been going on for months.

Since earlier this year, the county's emergency management team has been meeting with the county's Tourism Development Authority (TDA) to plan and coordinate for the event, said County Manager Jaime Laughter.

A part of the coordination includes working with law enforcement, fire and EMS officials at the local, state and federal levels to make sure that there are plans to communicate effectively during this "unique event," she said.

Laughter said determining just how many people will be in the county on Aug. 21 is difficult.

"The TDA has been instrumental in gathering information on the events taking place, including the numbers of people those organized opportunities expect and can accommodate," she said. "The wild card for determining numbers of people has to do with the wealth of land in our county that is federal and state park land, along with not knowing how many people will come and attempt to view without being at an official event site. Right now the weather forecast long range is suggesting a 50 percent or so chance of rain.

"If we have good weather for viewing, we can expect some significant traffic delays on the day of the eclipse."

Many accommodations in the county are sold out for the day and some places are full a few days prior and after.

Holiday Inn Express' 63 rooms will be full. Hampton Inn's 80 rooms are full. The Inn at Brevard and Sunset Motel are also fully booked, while other inns and campgrounds are reporting spots going fast.

Clark Lovelace, the TDA's executive director, said he's heard potential numbers of people coming into the county ranging between 10,000 and 100,000

"I think the latter is a bit extreme," Lovelace said. "Realistically, I have been saying, based on what we've learned, it is safe to assume that we will see 10,000 plus visitors on the day of the eclipse, perhaps even 20,000 plus. Additionally, we can expect extremely large crowds over the weekend prior.

"Fortunately, many of our tourism-related businesses have experience with handling large crowds during holidays/festivals, as well as weekends with heavy camp turnover, which they can use as a guide. On eclipse day in particular we encourage everyone to be careful on the roads, head to your destination early, have a full tank of gas, bring food and water, and wear eclipse glasses at all times other than the brief moment of totality."

Laughter's advice is to take care of errands before or after Aug. 21, and for those who have to travel that day to be prepared for significant travel delays.

"We are also advising people to avoid using cell phones that day unless for emergency use to avoid overtaxing the cell system," she said. "We do not expect any issues for landline phones with communicating should an emergency occur. Our emergency management team has been collaborating with federal, state and local emergency service agencies, including law enforcement, EMS, communications, fire and rescue squads, to assure that resources are spread throughout the county, so that we can respond as quickly as possible.

"Since traffic will be an issue, we are also requesting that drivers keep the road rights of way clear so that emergency vehicles can maneuver should an emergency occur. I am confident that our EM team and partner agencies have prepared as well as possible to accommodate this unique event and have utilized the resources at our disposal to the absolute fullest."

There will be 16 electronic signs in place to alert visitors to the area of the traffic concerns.

Sheriff David Mahoney said there would be a "considerable amount of additional personnel on duty for the days leading up to and immediately after the day of the eclipse."

Officers will be assigned to specific communities to minimize how much traffic they may have to deal with if they get service calls in those communities, he said.

"Beyond that, our tips are have fun, enjoy it, try to be patient and not try to get out of the area immediately," Mahoney said. "It's kind of like the Fourth of July firework show. For the first 30 minutes after that ends in Brevard you can't drive in Brevard.

"Wait a little while and be patient, and if you are coming in that day, try to arrive early. We are just asking as many folks as we can to stay off the road, particularly our residents. If you don't have to get out on the roads, don't, because there is going to be enough traffic out there as it is."

In The Forest

Due to the increase in visitors expected for the solar eclipse, U.S. Forest Service staff encourage drivers to understand parking rules and plan ahead for high amounts of traffic on narrow forest roads.

Use extreme caution when driving and parking, and pay close attention to other vehicles, pedestrians and bikers that will be sharing the roads and will likely be distracted. Plan to arrive early at your destination so that you can park legally.

"We want visitors who come for the eclipse to have a safe and enjoyable experience," said Allen Nicholas, forest supervisor of the National Forests in North Carolina.

"To ensure safety, we need to keep roadways clear for emergency vehicle use. As you travel on forest roads, keep in mind that there has to be enough space for fire trucks and ambulances to get up and down roads in case of an emergency."

Parking is not allowed in or on roads, and at sites with "No Parking" signs. If a vehicle is impeding the flow of traffic, it will be towed.

When parking on a roadside, be aware that unseen ditches often parallel roads.

Natural resources and vehicles can be damaged while entering or exiting a ditch and vehicles frequently require towing from these areas. Popular areas will likely meet capacity early in the day, and visitors may be directed elsewhere. Forest Service management is focused on public safety and protecting natural and cultural resources. It may be necessary to control traffic and parking, as well as restrict access to some areas to reduce the potential for damage.

Forest visitors are reminded to check the National Forests in North Carolina Facebook (www.facebook.com/nfsnc) for safety alerts and road closures put in place to ensure emergency access.

Plan your visit in advance and know what to expect before you arrive. Many roads on the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests are rough and may not be suitable for vehicles without high clearance or four-wheel drive.

Remote locations outside of developed recreation areas have very limited access and parking, restricted traffic flow, and no facilities with running water.

Cell phone service can be limited or unavailable and GPS units are often unreliable in the forest, so plan your route in advance and have a map.

 
 

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