Crook County and Prineville leaders literally spent a couple of years preparing for the 2017 solar eclipse and the amount of people, vehicles and chaos it would potentially bring to the community.
Local emergency managers met numerous times with law enforcement and fire personnel as well as with other emergency response personnel throughout Central Oregon and beyond. They held mock exercises, planned for a huge amount of people. They anticipated traffic so bad it would render locals unable to travel. They imagined an influx of people so great that people should buy groceries, gasoline, water and medications up to two weeks in advance.
As you read this, the eclipse has passed and the community has seemingly survived it — and it wasn't always easy or pretty. Last Wednesday and Thursday, Prineville witnessed a traffic jam of visitors to Symbiosis, a local music and eclipse festival in Big Summit Prairie, that surpassed anything witnessed during the busiest hunting season or Roundup week. Vehicles waited bumper to bumper in a line from the event entrance back to town — nearly 40 miles away! Suddenly Prineville had attained national attention for something besides Facebook and Apple — eclipse traffic.
The event also saw its share of emergencies — about three missing person reports, a handful of car fires, some motor vehicle accidents serious enough to require air ambulance and even a person run over by another vehicle.
But through it all, the majority of the people within Crook County borders — residents and visitors — enjoyed the community and the many businesses, booths, festivals and more that it has to offer.
It is hard to imagine how badly this could have gone if community leaders and emergency responders had not spent numerous months preparing for anything and everything that could happen. Would the fall-out from unheard-of traffic been worse? Would response time to vehicle accidents have suffered? Would people have found the missing persons as quickly?
There is truly no way to know these answers for certain, but between the many planning sessions, and the admirable and largely successful attempt by law enforcement to keep citizens apprised of situations as they arose, this community took a very large bull by the horns and more or less kept it on the intended path.
Prineville survived the eclipse and as a result, the community was able to enjoy what proved to be a truly magnificent and one-of-a-kind cosmic spectacle.