Monday, Aug. 21, is solar eclipse day
A total solar is eclipse is coming. That’s a certainty.
For Union County emergency services personnel, the only certain thing about the eclipse is uncertainty surrounding the impact of the event.
The total eclipse will occur on Monday, Aug. 21. Totality, when the sun is at its darkest, will be at 1:21 p.m. on Monday. Thousands of people are expected to come to Southern Illinois to view the eclipse.
Special events related to the eclipse are planned throughout the region, including at Union County area wineries and other venues.
Union County public schools will not be in session on the day of the eclipse.
The 2017 Union County Fair is scheduled to begin this weekend at the Anna City Park in Anna. Carnival rides on the midway at the fair are slated to be in operation during the eclipse.
Union County emergency services agencies have been working for months to prepare for the event and the anticipated arrival of many, many visitors.
“We don’t know what to expect,” Anna Fire Department Chief Gary Rider said last week.
The Anna Fire Department is planning to have one of its truck on Interstate 57 to assist the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Anna Police Chief Mike Hunter issued the following statement regarding the eclipse:
“With the possibility of our area seeing a temporary increase in population due to the eclipse of 2017, all area law enforcement and emergency services are asking the public to exercise patience.
“Our area likely will see traffic flow through the area increase many fold.
“The increase will add pressure to our local roadways, which are not capable of handling the expected increase.
“Use care and be extra diligent while traveling. Treat our visitors kindly and show them what a great area we live in.”
Preparations for the eclipse were discussed at last Friday morning’s regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners. The meeting was at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
Mention of the eclipse was even made in a prayer which was said at the start of the meeting. County board meetings generally start with a prayer.
Union County Ambulance Service director Grant Capel is among the officials who have been working on preparations for the eclipse.
“It’s very hard to plan when you don’t know how many people are coming,” Capel said at Friday morning’s county board meeting.
Capel said that logistical planning for the eclipse was being finalized and that supplies were being moved into place at key locations in the county.
A communications trailer will be situated at a central location in Union County.
Commissioner Dale Russell said that ham radio operators plan to be available to assist with communications.
Capel said that a helicopter landing site will be set up at Blue Sky Vineyard for use if needed.
Emergency services personnel plan to gather for briefings during the days leading up to the eclipse to discuss their plans. A briefing also may be held on Tuesday morning, Aug. 22, to prepare for circumstances related to the many people who would be leaving the area after the eclipse.
County board members voiced appreciation for all of the work which has gone into planning for the eclipse.