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Be prepared: CNY officials say treat Monday's eclipse like a big storm


Governments and law enforcement agencies across central and northern New York are preparing for next week’s solar eclipse.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon suggests local residents prepare for a potential onslaught of eclipse seekers to central New York, the way they would a big storm.

"Expect heavy traffic. Ensure your vehicle has gas, a full tank of gas,” McMahon said. “As we said, there could be a situation where you're stuck in traffic for a period of time. That's not what the community needs is to have you run out of gas. Certainly, you might want to consider some of the preparation that you have during storms. Certainly water and food as well."

It’s not clear just how many people will come through central New York, which is on the eastern edge of the eclipse’s path of totality. But it is expected to be a staging area for eclipse viewers elsewhere, because of its central location.

So one thing is for certain, according to McMahon. Traffic will be heavy.

"There is an expectation that 81 will have significant traffic issues,” he said. “And so, again, if you're going to view the eclipse and you're going somewhere other than your home, you need to anticipate that traffic will be an issue."

Onondaga County Sheriff Toby Shelley has issued a safety plan, which lists safety issues that will be monitored closely, such as an increase in 911 calls, lost or missing people, field or brush fires, cell service overload, along with that extra traffic.

April 8 will be the first activation of Onondaga County’s new Emergency Operations Center in Liverpool, which will oversee response to any issues. Emergency Management Commissioner Dan Wears expects 30 representatives from 10 - 12 agencies, ranging from transportation to police, converging on the new center, in what will be a partial activation.

"Our infrastructure partners won't be here,” Wears said. “And you know, there's no major need for them. They're aware of it, and you know, but there's not a real place for them in that. So we try to flex the activation levels based on what it is to most appropriately meet the needs of the community."

Aside from public safety, officials expect an economic boost from the once-in-a-lifetime event. According to McMahon, hotels are already almost fully booked on what are usually, slow days.

“Traditionally, on a Sunday evening in the community, you're looking at room occupancy rates between 15-25%,” McMahon said. “We're over 75%. Again, Monday, you know, room occupancy rates were strong as well."

To find out how long totality will last for your location, check this interactive map. And if you're not in the path of totality, here's an explanation of why you should try to get there.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.