In a little more than two weeks, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world will begin arriving in Madras and other areas of Jefferson County to experience what for many will be a once-in-a-lifetime event — a total solar eclipse.
In a presentation to city and county officials on July 26, Mark Carman, emergency manager for Jefferson County, suggested that people advise visitors that they should plan to arrive early and stay late for the eclipse, on Monday, Aug. 21.
A Deschutes County survey noted that 11 percent plan to arrive Wednesday or earlier, 17 percent plan to arrive Thursday, 21 percent on Friday, 25 percent on Saturday, 19 percent on Sunday, and 7 percent on Monday.
Expect traffic congestion for both arrival and departure dates. A total of 36 percent planned to depart on Monday, after the eclipse, while 44 percent said Tuesday, 11 percent Wednesday, and 9 percent after Wednesday.
The path of the total solar eclipse extends all the way across the United States, from the Oregon Coast to the coast of South Carolina, which means that the entire country will be able to see a partial eclipse. But the path of the total eclipse is just 70 miles wide, and only those in that swath will be able to see totality.
Madras and Warm Springs both sit near the center of that path, and will both enjoy 2 minutes and 2 seconds of totality, starting at 10:19 a.m. However, from the first contact (when the moon appears to touch the sun) at 9:06 a.m., until the end of the eclipse at 11:42 a.m., will be 2 hours and 36 minutes.
The total eclipse will be visible in Central Oregon from just south of Maupin, to the north, to Southwest Highland Avenue in Redmond, to the south. Both of those locations will only see a few seconds of total eclipse.
In Jefferson County, Culver, Metolius, Crooked River Ranch, Gateway and Camp Sherman will all experience from a minute and a half of total eclipse up to nearly 2 minutes.
Based on its elevation, open spaces and percentage of sunny days, Carman said that Madras is considered one of the best places in the country to view the total eclipse.
"The number of visitors could exceed 100,000," said Carman, who advised people to expect fuel and commodity shortages. "Keep your (gas) tanks full from this point forward. Start preparing now."
Lysa Vattimo, who is coordinating the city's eclipse preparation, has also been busy keeping track of about 36 events planned in the immediate area. As of Friday, there were still about 10,000 spots or spaces left at many different camping or parking locations. See madraseclipse.com for more information on what's available.
The largest events, put on by the Jefferson County Tourism Group, the SolarFest event at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds and Solartown, east of U.S. Highway 26 at Dogwood Lane, are both fully booked, with 360 spots sold at the fairgrounds and 5,075 sold at Solartown.
Nearly 900 of the city of Madras' 1,500 daytripper parking spaces at the Madras airport were booked, and about 520 of the Airport Fly-In's 2,000 spots were booked as of Friday. Approximately 260 aircraft were scheduled to fly in.
All of the city's 293 hotel or motel rooms have been booked for at least a year.
With the influx of people, Carman said there will definitely be slowing or loss of internet and possibly cell phone service. To improve service, two COWs — cell towers on wheels — will be brought in for local events. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, where Carman works, will also be using satellite phones, and will be coordinating with nine amateur radio field observers.
Regarding the command structure, he said that an incident management team will be set up at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, where the Joint Information Center will also be located. The JCSO will serve as the command post for law enforcement and fire.
"We'll have eight trailers on our lot," said Carman, adding that law enforcement officers will be working extra long shifts and staying in the trailers. "We're going to feed them."
Crooked River Ranch will have extra fire and emergency staff on duty, and Camp Sherman will have the JCSO Hasty Team for search and rescues.
The Madras Police Department will have all its officers and reserve officers on duty, and will also be working 12-hour shifts, with officers stationed onsite and in different quadrants of the city, according to Police Chief Tanner Stanfill.
Local officials anticipate a strain on all emergency services, health care facilities and hospitals in the area. Fortunately, all of the organizations have been meeting to coordinate their response. On July 25, the Madras City Council approved a collaboration between Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services and St. Charles Madras.
Mike Lepin, of JCEMS, said that a Multi-Agency Coordinating Center will provide oversight, and St. Charles will be the contracting entity for additional ambulances from Thursday, Aug. 17, through Tuesday, Aug. 22, when they have estimated that emergency room visits could jump to 230 per day.
Chief Liz Heckathorn said that JCEMS currently has five ambulances, but needs additional staffing for those ambulances, and has asked the Oregon Health Authority for six volunteers.
The city of Madras has laid out an Emergency Service Route, to ensure access for emergency and service vehicles, and will be printing flyers with that and other information, such as the location of port-a-potties and trash receptacles, for residents and visitors.
Trash and port-a-potties
The city of Madras is renting 122 regular and 13 handicapped-accessible port-a-potties, and 10 wash stations for the event, and will be stationing those facilities in 21 locations around town and at the Madras Municipal Airport. Those will be accompanied by trash receptacles. The city will have 110 95-gallon carts, six 5-yard dumpsters for the airport parking lot area, and four 30-yard dumpsters for emptying the smaller ones. Madras Sanitary will be handling disposal.
According to Misty Cox, who owns Middleton Septic and Portable Toilets, they will have 680 port-a-potties for the eclipse. They own about 400, but only 180 of those were available for the eclipse, so Cox said they reached out to Bend, Molalla and Eugene, as well as Idaho, to obtain another 500 for the event.
As the event has neared, some of those renting out the port-a-potties have substantially increased the costs to Middleton, which has meant additional costs for their customers.
"I've had to go back to those customers and request more money from them, which has been humiliating, especially in a small town where you know everyone," she said. "Thankfully, everyone has been very kind to us."
Cox said that the city of Metolius has requested 18 port-a-potties and two wash stations, and the city of Culver, five port-a-potties and three wash stations, which will also be available for its Crawdad Festival on Aug. 19.
The Jefferson County Tourism Group has reserved 185 regular and five ADA-approved port-a-potties and 12 wash stations for its two events — SolarFest and Solartown.
Middleton Septic and Portable Toilets will begin delivering some of the port-a-potties this week. "I have a lot of ducks to line up," said Cox, referring to the port-a-potties. "I'm waiting to get all my ducks."
Finally, under the topic of rumor control, Carman told the group that the Oregon Department of Transportation is not closing any highways, nor making them one way; the state of Oregon, not Central Oregon, is expecting 1 million visitors; neither Pacific Power nor Central Electric Co-op expect any loss of electricity; and the Airshow of the Cascades wil proceed as scheduled the following weekend, Aug. 25-26.
Carman also recommended that the public sign up for Everbridge alerts from Frontier Regional 911, to keep track of emergencies. A link to the alert program is available on the city's eclipse website, madraseclipse.com, under TIPS/FAQS.