Safety officials prep for influx of eclipse viewers


Montgomery County public safety officials are gearing up to meet thousands of visitors on Monday during the total eclipse event.

Locally, the eclipse is scheduled to begin at 3:06 p.m. and last approximately one minute.

“We have been planning for the eclipse for over a year,” said Montgomery County Emergency Management Director Jessica  Burget. “We have been attending state-wide seminars with local and state agencies.”

Burget said Indiana has made plans similar to what other states used when they experienced a full eclipse. The local planning group has tried to think of all scenarios to make the event a safe and enjoyable experience.

“For instance, we know that a couple of years ago when a similar event took place in Kentucky, many gas stations ran out of gas,” Burget said. “We need people to fill up before Monday and if they have an electric vehicle they need to get it fully charged, especially since we have few charging stations.”

Burget said local plans planning for trash, traffic and having enough restroom facilities available for the expected crowd.

A good indication of expected incoming observers is that local hotels have been booked for up to six months ahead of the eclipse. In many ways the eclipse event is being compared to one of the national races hosted at Ironman Raceway. However, onlookers will be spread out over the entire area and not congretate in just one location.

Shades State Park reports camping spot reservations are two-thirds full now and they expect to be full by the weekend.

The Indiana State Police will send a total of 13 additional road officers to the county to help with traffic control along Interstate 74, U.S 231 and state highways. County sheriff deputies also will be working, including the school resource officers since all three county schools have declared Monday as an e-learning day.

“Our focus will be to keep people moving,” Montgomery County Sheriff Ryan Needham said. “We will be out and ready to respond where we are needed.”

Eclipse viewers will not be allowed to pull off on the side of roads or stop at intersections.

The expected influx of visitors to the area means restaurants and other businesses could be busy. Burget encourages residents to get shopping and other errands done before Monday.

“We are encouraging local residents to build in extra time if they find it necessary to travel on roads on Monday,” Burgett said.

Every public safety organization in the county will be on call. The 911 emergency center will have additional phone operators and the Montgomery County Emergency Response Team will be on duty. EMA personnel will be deployed throughout the county and additional temporary medical helicopter landing zones are being established.

Burget also encourages all residents to use safety glasses to view the eclipse.