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Public Safety officials offer tips for a successful solar eclipse event

August 15, 2017 – With the total solar eclipse just over two weeks away, local public safety officials are planning for the worst but hoping for the best when it comes to traffic congestion and the influx of visitors to Excelsior Springs on Monday, Aug. 21.

Excelsior Springs Police Chief Clint Reno, Officer Paul White, Fire Chief Paul Tribble, Public Works Director Chad Birdsong and Economic Development Director Melinda Mehaffy met with The Standard Wednesday, Aug. 2 to share their tips for Excelsior Springs residents during the upcoming eclipse.

“It is a difficult event to plan for. We have no idea how many people will travel here to view the eclipse. We haven’t experienced anything like this before, but we are hoping for the best,” Chief Reno said. “We’re following the lead of MoDOT for travel tips and advice.”

MoDOT is estimating an additional 1.2 million people will visit Missouri during this astral event. Visitors will arrive as early as Friday, Aug. 18 and leave as late as Tuesday, Aug. 22.

City officials all agree that local residents should plan ahead for the event, arrive at their destination early and allow ample time for travel before and after the eclipse. If residents have a clear view of the sun from their own yards around 1 p.m., they can view the total eclipse. Reno said it might be best to just stay home and away from the high traffic areas that day.

MoDOT is informing motorists to expect heavy traffic on interstates and all roads inside the area of the total eclipse. This includes Interstate 35, Highway 69 and Highway 10 locally. Heavy congestion is also expected once the eclipse passes in the afternoon.

Drivers should not stop along interstates and refrain from parking along highway shoulders to watch the eclipse. Reno recommends that motorists just keep moving when on the major highways and roads. He recommends finding a location off the major roads for parking and viewing the event. Excelsior Springs has many public areas suitable for viewing the eclipse, including many parks. Some parks, like Century Park, are relatively free of tall trees and offer a great view of the open sky.

“Be aware of the extra pedestrians along the roads as well. We will have a lot of viewers randomly parking and walking along the streets prior to the eclipse,” Reno added.

Birdsong shared that MoDOT’s wall replacement project on Business Highway 10 along St. Louis Avenue is still on schedule and crews are working very hard to have the road open before the eclipse. This project has shut down a major artery to the downtown area and hampered traffic flow through Excelsior. Local residents have had to find alternate routes over the past few weeks.

“They have not set an exact date, but so far, MoDOT crews think they can have the road open before the weekend of Aug. 18,” Birdsong said.

Residents should also prepare for random interruptions in cell phone, television and internet service as the increase of visitors in the community could overload cell towers and disrupt service.

Chief Tribble concluded with this sound advice for residents: be mindful of your surroundings and your personal belongings during the total eclipse. As everyone is looking skyward, they are not paying attention to purses, personal belongings or other items that may be subjected to theft. Keep car windows rolled up and doors locked.

City officials are excited that Excelsior Springs is a focal point in this rare event and want to make sure Excelsior residents get the most from the experience. Solar eclipse glasses are available at the Hall of Waters for $1 each. Supplies are limited, so residents are encouraged to buy their glasses early. With a little advance planning and awareness, residents of Excelsior Springs should be set to have the time of their lives on Monday, Aug. 21.

By Brian Rice • brian@leaderpress.com

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