BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI North Country This Week CANTON -- St. Lawrence County legislators are moving forward with a Planning and Emergency Management Ad Hoc Committee in preparation for the 2024 solar …
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON -- St. Lawrence County legislators are moving forward with a Planning and Emergency Management Ad Hoc Committee in preparation for the 2024 solar eclipse.
Officials say St. Lawrence County has been identified as one of the "premier locations to observe the total solar eclipse in the United States" but that notoriety may bring a number of unique challenges.
This will be the last total solar eclipse until 2144, 120 years away, he said.
According to multiple resources, including NASA and the American Astronomical Society Solar Eclipse Task Force, the path of the total eclipse will cross through St. Lawrence County, with the very middle of the eclipse crossing the bottom third of the county.
That will occur between 3:20 p.m. to roughly 3:26 p.m. and will last for two and a half to three and a half minutes.
County officials say they expect anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 visitors to the county, which will "significantly contribute to the local tourism economy and marketing of the county."
Despite the positives that will come with enhanced tourism, officials say the influx of visitors will contribute to a "short, although tremendous impact on resources available in the county."
That impact could greatly and negatively affect emergency services and response times, officials say.
In the best interest of public safety, officials opted to organize a local planning effort and committee to advise and make recommendations to the board of legislators on a formal safety plan.
The committee will advise legislators policies related to public safety, public health, traffic control, community events, marketing and emergency planning sufficient to address the crowds expected in St. Lawrence County.
According to Emergency Services Director Matt Denner, Emergency Services has been drafting an emergency management plan for the event and has distributed it to legislators for consideration.
Denner said some of the unique challenges the county will face include transportation, with limited highways in the central zone of the eclipse.
Some areas may face mass congestion, especially with viewers pulling off to the side of the highway or other public highways for viewing.
That mass congestion will also potentially cause issues with cell phone coverage, with thousands of extra devices taking up the already limited bandwidth in many areas.
The inability to make calls in the event of a medical emergency are a concern, especially now that land lines are no longer prevalent, Denner previously told legislators.
Denner said the influx of tourists will also provide Emergency Services with an opportunity to exercise multiple plans and annexes that typically are only simulated as well.
One concern many at the state and county level have raised is the potential for cell coverage to be limited as a result of the influx of people.
Denner said cell phone coverage is a primary concern that has already been identified by the state, noting that the possibility of adding temporary cell towers has been raised to mitigate those concerns.
For more information about the total eclipse, visit solarsystem.nasa.gov/eclipses/2024/apr-8-total/overview/.