The state of Oregon forecasts up to 1 million people may pour in to watch the total solar eclipse on August 21. Emergency planners in central and eastern Oregon are hoping eclipse chasers will fill out a short online survey to help them staff up appropriately.
Ashley Volz from the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office has been preparing for the solar eclipse crowds for the past six months.
"We got tired of wondering when people were going to be coming and wondering when they would be leaving and wondering where they would be staying,” she said. “So we just decided to ask them."
Volz said shout outs on social media for eclipse visitors to fill out a short online survey gave her some good news.
"Folks are doing a nice job at spreading themselves out on what we’re calling the long eclipse weekend,” she said.
So basically, arrivals are spaced out across the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the event. But brace yourself for a traffic nightmare after the Monday morning eclipse when the vast majority of out-of-towners plan to head home immediately or the very next day.
"This gives us a good idea about how to staff a lot of traffic control people, even how to staff our multi-agency coordination center," Volz said in an interview.
As of August 1, what Volz described as a statistically valid sample of 1,128 out-of-area visitors had responded to the Central Oregon Emergency Information Network's online survey. COEIN is a relatively new consortium encompassing state, federal and local agencies in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties.
The survey indicated relatively few eclipse chasers will be day trippers, which is a relief to Volz because she thinks that is an unwise approach. Among the respondents, 10 percent said they planned to drive into Central Oregon to see the total eclipse on a day trip.
In eastern Oregon's Baker County, Emergency Management Director Jason Yencopal saw what his colleagues to the west were doing and decided to copy it. Yencopal added a few questions to his county's anonymous online survey, including asking eclipse visitors who their cellular phone provider is so he can alert a particular carrier to add temporary capacity if necessary.
Yencopal said the survey went live last Friday and so far has drawn few responses.
The total eclipse of the sun will last about two minutes for people directly under its path. In the Pacific Northwest it will begin around 10:15 a.m. on Monday, August 21, on the Oregon coast between Waldport and Pacific City. The "path of totality" will then sweep across north central Oregon, move on into central Idaho and then race across the country, eventually moving out over the Atlantic Ocean from South Carolina.
Northwest cities under the roughly 60-mile wide path of totality—in which the moon will completely blot out the sun—include Lincoln City, Salem, Corvallis, Madras, Prineville, John Day and Ontario, Oregon, and Weiser, Cascade and Stanley, Idaho. The moon's shadow will produce a partial eclipse across a much wider swath.
Online visitor surveys for people planning to view the August 21 eclipse:
Central Oregon—Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties:
Baker County, Oregon: