No one knows what kind of impact the August 21 solar eclipse will have on the Kansas economy as there could be significant traffic through the state of people getting to optimum viewing sites.
As many as 25,000 people may pass through Kansas counties experiencing totality during the Aug. 21 eclipse, and state agencies are taking precautions, especially in anticipation of congested roads. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management will activate the State Emergency Operations Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. The center provides support to local jurisdictions in the event of a disaster or emergency, said Devan Tucking, KDEM response and recovery services section chief.“ In this case, the State Emergency Operations Center will stand at a level of readiness monitoring the situation and any needs that may arise across the state,” Tucking said.The center will have staff in response action, logistics and planning positions.KDEM has been coordinating efforts with counties in the path of totality and adjacent counties since June, Tucking said.“We are focusing on overall readiness for the state and will monitor for any issues such as weather threats, traffic concerns, or anything that arises,” she said. The path of totality will pass through nine Kansas counties: Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson, Marshall, Nemaha, Leavenworth and Wyandotte. While the number of people making their way to Kansas is difficult to predict, Brown County Sher- iff John Merchant said the county’s population could easily double. With close to an additional 10,000 peo- ple in the county possible, Merchant said, his agency is preparing. “I will have extra deputies staffed through- out the county,” he said. “Extra dispatch and jail staff will also be available if needed.” Merchant said the county expects visitors to start arriving Saturday and for most to leave Monday after the eclipse. Area hotel rooms have been booked up for several weeks, he said. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse echoed Merchant’s comments. “It is impossible to predict the impact the eclipse will have on the county,” Morse said. “However, there is no doubt there will be a significant influx of traffic coming through the county.” The county will add staff to its communications center and have additional patrol deputies working. The Kansas Highway Patrol also said it will have extra manpower in north- east Kansas. “We are planning on assisting KDOT and local law enforcement with any issues that arise,” said Trooper Jordan Plachecki. The path of totality miss- es Shawnee County. Dusty Nichols, director of the Shawnee County Department of Emergency Management, said staff will be on hand to support surrounding counties with personnel and equipment. The primary concern is the number of people hitting the roads.
“We anticipate a lot of movement of vehicles and people,” Nichols said. “If everyone obeys the rules, laws and are patient with each other, I am sure it will be a very entertaining event with no issues. That said, we prepared for the worst and hope for the best.” The Topeka Police Department said it isn’t taking any extra precautions at this point. Tips for safely experiencing the eclipse include: Plan ahead by identifying a safe location to view the eclipse. Do not stop along the road because that will cause a traffic safety issue.
Allow plenty of travel time to reach a safe place for viewing. If you are driving during the eclipse, turn on your headlights and do not rely on automatic headlights. Do not take photos or wear eclipse safety glasses when driving. Travel with a safety kit including items such as nonperishable foods, water, medication, a first aid kit, fuel, jumper cables and a map. Stay clear of emergency routes and maintain a method of receiving local emergency warnings. Check the weather and plan accordingly. Wear eclipse safety glass- es during the event.