Eclipse prompts Central Oregon agencies' collaboration

Big crowds due; public info network in the works

Virtual eclipse information center in...

BEND, Ore. - Central Oregon is watching as attendance estimates for the August solar eclipse creep higher. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected, but it’s the unexpected that has people worried.

About 30 agencies are working together to launch a multi-agency information network. It will be a one-stop shop for the public to get current information and emergency updates.

"It's going to be transportation, parks, highways. It's going to be cities. It's going to be chambers of commerce,” ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said Thursday. “So there needs to be one place where people can come and get that information."

Agencies will use it as a platform to get their message across.

"It's going to be (the) peak of fire season in August,” said Christie Shaw, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry. “We would really be focusing our message on prevention, following the public use restrictions that we have in place, making sure that you know if you're on public land or private land.”

Agencies are currently meeting every other week. As the eclipse gets closer, they will meet weekly, and then daily. They’ll be setting up headquarters at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond the week of the eclipse.

By comparison to Jefferson and Crook counties, Deschutes County could be much tamer, being just south of the path of totality.

"While there have been outdoor mass gathering permits and events being held in other counties that are going to be experiencing the total solar eclipse, to date, no one has yet applied in Deschutes County,” said Peter Gutowsky, the county's planning manager.

Highways, however, will no doubt be packed. ODOT plans to station crews every four to five miles, from Bend to Madras.

"What we're anticipating is the capacity of the highway will be met. There will be no available space for people to drive in,” Murphy said. “So it's important that we understand whether there's a crash, whether there's an incident of any kind, (so) we can respond quickly.”

Many agencies have a similar message.

"Plan ahead. Go do your grocery shopping a week in advance. Go fill your gas tanks a week early. Do all these things so you're not out there trying to compete with the general visitor population,” said Crook County Emergency Manager Michael Ryan.

The information network is expected to go live this spring. When it does, we’ll post a link to it and more information at KTVZ.COM, including our special Eclipse section.

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