Illinois police, emergency officials plan for eclipse eventualities

Illinois police, road  and emergency planners are anticipating a horde of eclipse lovers coming to Southern Illinois in coming days. Just how many, none knows for certain, but various contingencies will be in place.

eclipseA total solar eclipse will be visible across portions of Southern Illinois, and a partial eclipse will be visible across the entire state in the last morning and early afternoon Monday, Aug. 21. Illinois State Police is reminding motorists to prepare for increased traffic volume leading up to and after the solar eclipse and to be aware of possible distracted drivers during the event.

Carbondale will be one of the nation’s prime viewing locations of the event and is home to the point of the greatest duration for the total solar eclipse. Increased traffic flow on routes heading into and out of Carbondale is expected on the days leading up to and after the event. Motorists traveling through Southern Illinois during this time are encouraged to plan ahead and allow for extra travel time.

Motorists should not observe the eclipse while driving or park on the side of the road to view the event. Make sure to choose a safe location away from traffic to view the eclipse.

“The total solar eclipse is an exciting event which could cause distractions for motorists,” stated Director Leo P. Schmitz. “Please be sure to keep your headlights on for your safety throughout the entire day of the eclipse. Also make sure to watch for motorists who may be slowing or stopping and pedestrians standing near or on the roadway trying to view the event.”

The ISP continues to work with the Illinois Department of Transportation and local law enforcement agencies to prepare for the 2017 Solar Eclipse.

For travel conditions on Illinois roadways, go to www.gettingaroundillinois.com.

While crowd estimates vary, at least 145,000 people are expected to travel to the totality area in 18 Southern Illinois counties to experience the rare celestial event and partake in dozens of eclipse-related events scheduled over a four-day period. Outside the totality area, people as far north as Chicago will be able to witness a partial eclipse.

Anticipating a high-level of interest in the eclipse, state and local public safety agencies and partner organizations began planning activities nearly a year ago to ensure safety for everyone before, during and after the eclipse.

“The planning efforts for the eclipse were similar to those we undertake for other events that involve large crowds,” said James K. Joseph, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “We began working with our emergency management partners within the path of totality last fall, as well as with our state agency and mutual aid partners to address every possible contingency in order to ensure the safety of everyone who lives in or visits southern Illinois for the eclipse.”

Joseph said planning efforts focused on many issues, including crowd control, public health and medical considerations, highway congestion, mass care and communications.

County and municipal agencies will be the lead within their jurisdictions. To facilitate coordination among response organizations, IEMA will establish a State Unified Area Command in Effingham, where representatives from the state departments of Transportation, Natural Resources, Public Health, Corrections, IEMA, the Illinois State Police, Illinois National Guard, fire, law enforcement and emergency management mutual aid organizations and the American Red Cross will be staged from Aug. 18-22.

Reporting to the State Unified Area Command will be Area Commands in Fairview Heights and Marion, where personnel will maintain close-range situational awareness of issues related to traffic, medical needs, cooling centers and other situations that may arise. Each Area Command will interact with response organizations in its nine-county area. In addition, IEMA personnel will deploy as needed to the local emergency operations centers of all of the major venues and where requested.

The National Weather Service in Paducah will have personnel in the Marion Area Command to provide regular weather updates for the entire 18-county area.

The State Emergency Operations Center in Springfield also will be activated Aug. 18-22 to support the commands.

Safety messages

Joseph said many state and local agencies are actively promoting steps people should take to stay safe throughout the event. Eye safety is one of the most critical messages because it is never safe to look directly at the sun – even if the sun is partly eclipsed. Permanent or temporary vision loss is possible from unprotected viewing of the eclipse. When watching an eclipse, people must wear eclipse glasses or use a solar viewer to face the sun. Make sure eclipse glasses or solar viewer meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.

A list of manufacturers and authorized dealers of eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard is on the American Astronomical Society Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers website.

With thousands of people planning to view the total eclipse in southern Illinois, IDOT and ISP officials have been closely coordinating with local law enforcement to ensure key traffic areas are staffed and the public is receiving helpful information through digital message signs. People should plan ahead for longer travel times in the region due to the expected influx of people and should plan ahead.

IDOT and ISP officials also say people should plan to park in a designated parking area away from traffic. No one should pull over on the side of the road to view the eclipse. Drivers in areas with viewing events or prime viewing locations should expect high volumes of pedestrian and bicycle traffic and drive accordingly. Both agencies also recommends motorists keep headlights on throughout the day of the eclipse.

For links to more information about eclipse safety and other related information, visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.

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