BEND, OR -- An estimated one-million visitors are expected in Oregon for the August eclipse, given that the state is the first place to view the solar phenomenon. While Oregon's Department of Transportation works to mitigate problems on highways, local first responders are planning how they will get through all that traffic to emergencies.
Nathan Garibay is the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services Manager. He tells KBND News, "It’s kind of a multi-layer plan that’s still in development. But, we’re looking at where we locate resources so that there’s less travel time through major ‘choke points.’ We’re communicating with Oregon State Police and other law enforcement agencies in the county, as well as the region, and looking how we can better position resources to be able to be closer to incidents when they occur." Garibay adds, "Our staff are familiar with some alternate routes that we might be able to utilize." But he admits, "Ultimately, it’s going to increase our response times. That’s just the reality of the situation. But, we are looking at how we can better position assets to be closer to potential trouble areas."
He says potential delays shouldn’t stop Central Oregonians from calling 911 in a life-threatening situation. "It may take a little longer for emergency services, whether that’s law enforcement, fire or EMS to arrive. But, we are working with all our partners to ensure that we can mitigate those response times as best as possible."
ODOT warns back-ups are inevitable and officials say cities may close local streets or ban right or left turns to keep traffic moving. Garibay urges locals to pre-plan and try to travel as little as possible in the week leading up to the eclipse. He says they’re planning for over 200,000 visitors in Central Oregon - or more, if it’s cloudy on the west side of the state.
Eclipse Coverage on KBND is supported in part by Awnings Unlimited. Shade yourself from the sun with Awnings Unlimited at 5541-389-1619 and awningsunlimited.net.