Murphy,Cherokee Co, N.C.- On Monday, July 17, 2017, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners hosted a Public Safety Hearing regarding the upcoming total solar eclipse happening on Aug. 21, 2017. Representatives from several agencies presented, and offered the public a lot of worthwhile information. Robin Caldwell, Emergency Management Director for the county, delivered a presentation of slides ranging from general eclipse information to how emergency management, law enforcement, and government agencies are preparing for the event. The eclipse event itself will last only about 2 1/2 minutes (during totality, when the moon will completely cover the sun from our perspective), but changes could begin to be seen as early as 10 am. Totality is expected to begin at 2:35 PM. The longest duration of totality will be visible from Andrews, but in Murphy it will only be less visible by about 4 seconds.
The county is expecting anywhere from 10,000 to 75,000 visitors beginning to enter slowly about a week before Aug. 21, but the majority of the migration in will begin Friday, peaking on the day of from surrounding metropolitan areas within 2 or 3 hours. Already, all the accommodations in the county are sold out, and residents are beginning to rent out pastures and rooms in their homes. Cherokee County Public Schools and county offices will be closed on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.
The county is planning to need many additional resources to accommodate this influx of visitors to the county. They are in communication with outside counties in case of need of extra manpower, light up message boards for traffic, light towers, additional handheld radios for communication, etc. County Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) will be activated to coordinate local emergency personnel and resources.
Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer spoke at length regarding the event. While trying not to incite panic in local citizens, he does warn that this event would be best treated as a winter storm, where one should stock up on necessary resources way in advance to avoid possible shortages, and to stay home to view the event safely from your home where you are able to protect your property. He pointed out that many visitors may get lost trying to find designated viewing areas, or may inadvertently trespass while trying to find a good vantage point from which to view the eclipse. He urges locals to be patient with visitors/trespassers, and attempt to be neighborly and sociable, and if you do not want visitors in your pasture or driveway to kindly request for them to leave. At all costs, avoid altercations, but to make note of tag numbers or other important information to report to law enforcement. That said, he also stated that depending on traffic conditions and hierarchy of need, smaller trespassing violations may not be able to be serviced. Not to scare us, but that the event will be drawing a large number of people to public places, which invites the possibility of tragedies such as a terrorist attack or plane crash or fire. We must be cognizant of these possibilities, and be aware that response time may be longer than normal. He hopes that the real danger of the event will only be tempers flaring and the expected anger that may occur sitting in gridlock in 90 degree temperatures. Also, expect people to stop driving or walking as the totality occurs, even on the 4 lane. Parking on the shoulder (only if you are well off the roadway and not blocking traffic) will be allowed on the 4 lane. Do not park on the median.
As in any emergency situation, it is best to stay informed and Caldwell reminded the citizens of the county that there is a new reverse 911 system in place in Cherokee County and to sign up for alerts at either nixle.com or on the Cherokee county website. You choose whether you want a phone call alert or a text alert (text 888777 and type your zip code in the subject line). She stated that Codered is not the latest emergency communication system. Also, if you just want updates about the solar eclipse event itself, text 888777 and type “eclipse2017” in the subject line.
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