Emergency operations plan ensures ‘a great day’ for Monday’s eclipse, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio is pulling out all the stops for Monday’s total solar eclipse, as it braces for potentially hundreds of thousands of visitors.

“I have to say, we don’t always get a lot of time leading up to events,” Ohio Emergency Management Agency Director Sima Merick said at a news conference Friday. “Right? So having 200 years in the making has been very beneficial, I have to say.”

At the event, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said it was 1806, just three years into Ohio’s statehood, when a total eclipse last crossed the state’s path. The next time will be 2099.

He has activated the Ohio Emergency Operations Center beginning Sunday, so that it will be up and running before, during and after Monday’s celestial event to help communities navigate any issues that arise.

Adding somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 tourists to the state’s existing population could stress government agencies. He will have the National Guard on standby throughout the weekend, but has stopped short of activating soldiers in advance, he said.

“Again, this is simply a precaution. We think it’s smart to be ready,” he said. “We’re hoping that the planning for the eclipse will ensure that everyone has a great day.”

A host of other state agencies — the state departments of Transportation, Public Safety, Health and Natural Resources, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard — will all be present at the emergency operations centers, and most are also surging resources toward the event. The National Weather Service will also be on hand.

If emergency officials are viewing the eclipse as they would a major weather event, the Department of Natural Resources is looking at it as if a major fireworks display were taking place in each of its 23 state parks and five wildlife areas all at the same time, director Mary Mertz said. All 300 of the state’s commissioned wildlife officers will be on duty this weekend, she said. Extensive park programming around the eclipse, including hundreds of activities and viewing events, begins Saturday and runs through Monday.

Ohio is curtailing highway construction projects headed into Monday, so that maximum lanes are available to accommodate anticipated heavy traffic, Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks said. Officials encouraged travelers to pack extra snacks and water, for both themselves and any pets they have along; phone chargers; and paper road maps in case of cell service disruptions.

Besides traffic, eye damage is the other major risk associated with the eclipse — which the Ohio Department of Health has explained in a video, DeWine said. Marchbanks also noted that people should not drive in their eclipse glasses.

Col. Charles Jones of the Ohio State Highway Patrol advised “planning, preparation and patience” in relation to the eclipse. Stopping along the highway to view the eclipse is both illegal and dangerous, he said.

Travelers might consider delaying their trips home for several hours after the eclipse, to allow crowds and traffic to dissipate, if not staying overnight, DeWine said.

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