Things to keep in mind as solar eclipse approaches

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Jim Peters, chairman for Hancock County COAD, directed Thursdays evening meeting, offering final prep tips for the solar eclipse.

By Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — Jim Peters, the head of the Community Organization Active in Disaster (COAD) was walking around the Hancock County Emergency Management meeting room handing out solar eclipse glasses to the people who gathered there Thursday night.

The meeting was a last chance for COAD officials and some emergency management workers to share ideas, express concerns and offer suggestions for folks interested in being as prepared as possible for the Monday afternoon solar eclipse.

“We want to remind people to have situational awareness,” Peters said.

The solar eclipse will slice across central Indiana Monday, April 8 plunging hundreds of thousands of people into darkness for a few minutes. The eclipse is expected to begin around 1:47 p.m. with four minutes of totality reached around 3:06 p.m. The backside of the eclipse is expected to end at 4:24 p.m.

For Peters and others whose goal it is to keep everyone safe during the event, they took advantage of the gathering to go over situational awareness tips created for things as monumental as the eclipse.

“We want people to know how to react if things should change during the event,” Peters said.

Officials talked about things like how a solar flare could effect their viewing, as well as reminded people cell phone communications might be spotty due to thousands of more users in the area.

Peters asked each person in attendance what their plans were for the day and if they knew what to do should things head south and an emergency pops up during the eclipse. Officials noted it would be wise for citizens to be aware of their surroundings from around 8 a.m. on the morning of the solar eclipse until about 8 p.m. Monday night. That’s when thousands are expected to descend in the Hancock County area.

“There won’t be anything such thing as a back road Monday get away or way to travel,” Peters said.

While officials noted people can probably get by without food and water for several hours should an emergency arise and they’re stuck in traffic, he warned anyone planning to get in a car Monday to make sure at the very least their gas tank is full.

One of the people who’ll be monitoring the weather for the event told others at the meeting that while the late week forecast says there may be some clouds over Indiana on Monday, there is supposed to be a cloud break over central Indiana just at the right time. Official said that could mean thousands of more people — more than those already planning to be in Indiana — will head to this area to catch the eclipse just at the right time.

Peters reminded the group to spread the word that places like Hancock Regional Hospital will be closed except to emergencies and immediate care.

One of the other main concerns is keeping roads clear to allow emergency officials to get through should they be needed.

“It certainly feels like traffic will be a real issue here in the county,” Peters said. “Did you know, 75% of the population is only one day away travel wise from Indiana.”

Officials noted people should not be surprised if power actually goes out during the eclipse because things that usually operate at night might automatically turn on when it goes dark for a few minutes causing a power surge or an overload of the system.

Peters said much has changed in the country since the last total solar eclipse in 2017, including a growth in the divisiveness among people in the country. It’s why he and others are asking Hoosiers to stay calm and show true Hoosier hospitality during the day.

“Now days someones more likely to shoot you for a parking space then they were in 2017,” Peters said.

While most of the people at the meeting stated they planned to watch the solar eclipse from the safety of their own property, retired firefighter Jim Webb said he plans to volunteer at the Greenfield soup kitchen in the morning and then drive to New Palestine around noon where his daughter is having a watch party.

“If we can’t make it there because of too much traffic we’ll turn around and watch it from our yard in Greenfield,” Webb said. “That’s the whole thing about all of this, nobody really knows what is going to happen.”

That’s exactly why COAD officials gathered one last time to go over situational awareness tips and spread the word others should enjoy the event, but be mindful as well and have a safety plan prepared in the event something abnormal occurs.