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All hands on deck for eclipse – police, fire, hospital, hotels, groceries & gas stations add staff and stock – BG Independent News


BG Independent News

The total solar eclipse on Monday is expected to stretch local first responders to the limit, empty grocery shelves and gas station supplies, and try the patience of motorists.

But Bowling Green is making the most of the once-in-a-lifetime event, with stores selling eclipse T-shirts, carryouts stocking up on moonpies, and restaurants concocting special alcoholic beverages. 

Visitors seeking clear skies for eclipse viewing could triple Wood County’s population on Monday. BGSU is hosting a eclipse watch party at the football stadium – expected to draw up to 20,000 spectators staring upward.

Gators will go where other vehicles can’t

Agencies that deal with the motoring public are preparing for the biggest headaches on Monday. Bowling Green Police Division is accustomed to handling traffic from tractor pulls, BGSU football games, and fireworks. So officers are expecting the same – magnified.

“People come in staggered, but once it’s over, people want to leave in the next 30 seconds,” said BGPD Lt. Dan Mancuso.

The police division will have extra officers on patrol and a backup for its radio system. Because the major concerns will likely be traffic problems, officers will ticket or tow vehicles parked illegally and blocking the flow of traffic.

The police will be working closely with the fire division, to get emergency assistance to places as quickly as possible, Mancuso said.

BG Fire Chief Bill Moorman said equipment and personnel will be strategically located in the city. For example, an ambulance will be stationed near the BGSU football stadium, and Gator utility vehicles have been loaned to the city so the fire division can get basic life support to areas where regular vehicles won’t be able to get through.

“If we can’t get an ambulance or fire vehicle through, we can at least get basic life support there,” Moorman said.

“We’re going to prepare for the worst, and hopefully it pays off,” he said.

Pack your patience

Outside of Bowling Green, Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said his office will have extra dispatchers and deputies on road patrol on Monday.

“We’re used to traffic after football games, tractor pulls and move-in days,” Wasylyshyn said. “I am optimistic. People just need to be patient.”

Ohio State Patrol Sgt. Ryan Purpura said the patrol is reminding motorists to not pull off the shoulders of major highways for eclipse viewing. Cars on the side of the road can lead to crashes and delays during standstill traffic.

“We want to be available for emergency situations,” not dealing with parked vehicles, Purpura said.

ODOT is doing its part by treating the eclipse like a major travel holiday and reducing the size of work zones where possible to accommodate extra traffic, according to Kelsie Hoagland, public information officer for ODOT District 2. However, there are some work zones where this will not be an option, including work on I-475 on the southwest side of Toledo.

ODOT is suggesting that drivers pack paper maps in case cell phone service is overwhelmed. Motorists are being encouraged to arrive early to their chosen watch location, and plan to stay late to avoid the initial traffic rush once the event has concluded.

ODOT plans patrols of affected counties beginning Friday through Sunday, to monitor traffic coming into the area. Crews are prepared to work long hours, and signal electricians will be on call to adjust traffic signal timing, if needed.

Portable message boards will be placed every 20-30 miles on primary routes along the line of totality. Vehicles involved with traffic control will have emergency response items, such as road flares and traffic cones.

Rest areas are being prepared and will be staffed the day of the eclipse to ensure proper function and that supplies are replenished.

Groceries and gas

Kroger staff will be monitoring over the weekend in the Bowling Green store, so shelves can be restocked for customers, said Mark Bruce, corporate affairs manager for Kroger.

“Kroger associates are working to ensure our stores are stocked full and ready for any guests coming to Northwest Ohio for the eclipse, and our regular customers who might be picking up items for eclipse-related fun,” Bruce said.

The grocery has set up displays with treats like Moon Pies, Sun Chips, eclipse viewing glasses and camping supplies.

The Meijer store, located near the Interstate 75 interchange for Bowling Green, is also planning to be flooded with customers. 

“Meijer has been anticipating the eclipse – preparing in advance and working around the clock to ensure essential items are available to customers,” said Meijer representative Tara Byrne.

In addition to food and beverages, the store is selling eclipse theme shirts, jewelry and glow sticks.

Staff at a couple gas stations next to the I-75 exit to Bowling Green said they will have full underground gas tanks, and extra employees working that day.

“We are having as many staff as we can,” said Patrick Palmer, a customer service representative at Speedway on East Wooster Street. “Here’s hoping” that’s enough, he said.

A cashier at the Circle K across from the BGSU football stadium said that the store is stocking up. “We’re just trying to make sure we have enough beverages,” the employee said.

The Wood County Health Department is reminding food truck operators and impromptu campgrounds that they need to be licensed to sell food or space to stay, said Beth Peery, public information officer for the health department.

Hotel rooms went like hotcakes

Hotels in the path of totality saw their rooms being sold out months in advance. 

Best Western Falcon Plaza in BG is “absolutely” fully booked, said Nichole Gregg Denning, front desk manager.

“We’ve got a couple reservations from January of last year,” she said. “There are people pretty serious about this.”

The Best Western has arranged for shuttle transportation for those wanting to go to the eclipse watch party at the football stadium, or to a huge curling event over the weekend. The hotel has offered the shuttle in the past during the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival and the tractor pulling championships.

“We spent a lot of time planning for this,” Gregg Denning said.

The Holiday Inn Express, right off I-75, also filled up quickly, said manager Rebecca OMarrah.

“We still are getting people calling,” she said.

The eclipse has provided an opportunity for hotels in the path of totality to cash in on the occasion. Holiday Inn Express rooms that normally go for $120 to $130 this time of year, are bringing in $429 a night.

Hospital prepares for patients 

Wood County Hospital is accustomed to high volume weekends, such as during the National Tractor Pulling Championships each year.

So preparations for the eclipse have been somewhat similar, said Cristy Walton, of the hospital foundation. There will be more staff working in the emergency department, and employees have been cautioned about extra drive time to get to work. Many staff are also having to make arrangements for children who are off school on Monday.

The hospital expects to see an uptick in inebriated patients, since some people are making the eclipse a multiple day event.

They are prepared for injuries likely anytime there is so much congested traffic. “Accidents tend to happen,” Walton said.

And they are expecting patients with eye issues after not wearing proper eclipse glasses. 

“Our physicians in the emergency department are prepared and educated on that,” Walton said.

The hospital is hoping that patients with less serious issues go to the Urgent Care services at the Falcon Health Center, to relieve the burden on the Wood County Hospital Emergency Department.

BG planning for big crowds

The Bowling Green area is expecting a huge influx of those looking to experience the event, with the population projected to triple for the event. The EMA expects 260,000 additional people to come to Wood County, with a majority of them viewing Bowling Green and BGSU as a recognizable place to be for this experience.

And if the weather forecast is good, even more spectators can be expected. That means restrooms, trash receptacles, law enforcement, and medical services will be a premium. 

“If they say it’s going to be 70 and sunny, get ready,” Wood County EMA Director Jeff Klein said.

“People want to go where people are at. They want bathrooms and food,” he said. “The other days will be really irritating,” but Monday will be the worst.

Here’s how you can help…

Amanda Gamby, city communications director, said Bowling Green officials have been working with Wood County EMA for months to prepare for the eclipse. EMA and city officials are asking local residents to make preparations for April 8, such as:

  • If you can, stay home to watch the eclipse. Don’t schedule an oil change or doctor’s appointment. “The more local people we can get staying at home, the better,” Klein said.
  • Plan for possible services being halted for the day, such as mail deliveries, garbage pickup and meal deliveries.
  • Expect parking lots off major roadways to be full.
  • Make sure your vehicle has gas, since there will be gas shortages.
  • Make sure to have some food at home, since groceries and restaurants will be taxed by visitors.
  • Delay any non-emergency home repairs.
  • Call ahead to make sure a business is open, since non-essential businesses are being asked to consider closing for the day.
  • Businesses should be aware that their employees may not be able to get to work that day.
  • Expect issues with cell phones. Most cell carriers have the ability to handle a 10% to 25% increase in cell data usage, but callers may need to set phones to wifi.
  • Only look at the eclipse through a special-purpose solar filter. Safe eclipse glasses should comply with ISO 12312-2 international standard. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are unsafe. They transmit too much sunlight and could damage the eyes. 
  • Have a family communication plan in the event of limited cell phone service due to heightened network use.
  • If traveling that day, have a travel plan. Do not pull over into the shoulder or side of the road to view the eclipse. Do not park on privately owned land unless arrangements have been made with the owner of the property. 

In preparation for the eclipse, the city will be making the following adjustments:

  • The City Administration Building will be closed to the public starting at 11 a.m. on Monday. Utility or tax payments may be paid online or placed in the secure drop box located to the left of the entrance. 
  • Curbside refuse and recycling collection will be delayed one day the week of April 8. 
  • The police, fire, public works, and utilities departments will be operating with extended shifts and increased staffing in anticipation of large crowds, heavy to gridlocked traffic, possible road closures, and other safety considerations. 

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