Natrona County Sheriff, Emergency Management Gear Up For Eclipse
A spectacular celestial vision could very well clash with a stupendous logistical nightmare when hordes spectators converge on central Wyoming in mid-August for the total solar eclipse.
The crowds -- estimates so far have ranged from 20,000 to 50,000 -- will eat, sleep, travel, communicate, have fun and maybe experience tragedies during the week leading up to 11:43 a.m., Monday, Aug. 21 when Casper will enter 146 seconds of total darkness as the moon blocks the sun for a total eclipse.
The Natrona County Sheriff's Office is among dozens of local and state agencies planning for the once-in-a-lifetime event, Emergency Management Lt. Stew Anderson said Tuesday during a briefing with the Natrona County commissioners.
"The biggest concern is the influx of people, 50,000 in Natrona County and they're predicting maybe up to a half-a-million or 500,000 for the state of Wyoming," Anderson said after the briefing.
"We have very limited law enforcement, fire, medical resources and to deal with the influx of people from literally from all over the world that will be coming across the state," he said.
Many coming here never have been in Casper, or Wyoming or the United States.
Sheriff Gus Holbrook said the eclipse poses unique logistical problems.
"It's not like the fair and rodeo, where you've got them all in one area," Holbrook said. "They will be all over the county,. and that spreads us thin trying to patrol all that, to respond to calls."
This will be an international event, too, and will require translators, Holbrook said. "You have a bus that crashes and it's full of Japanese tourists, and now you've got to communicate with them."
It won't be cheap, either.
Anderson told commissioners the county will incur costs for overtime for the sheriff's office and other county agencies preparing for the eclipse.
Other costs include obtaining extra equipment from Verizon to ensure communications among agencies; satellite phones at $700-$800 each and supporting equipment; priority wireless service for cell phones; food and food preparation for outside agencies assisting county agencies, he said.
Besides costs, the sheriff's office has been conducting exercises to plan for events such as bus crashes, wildfires, and visitors at Alcova Reservoir will drive from neighboring states the day of the event, Anderson said. "If we plan for the 50,000 and we get only 30 (thousand) we can scale back, and if we get more than that we've already prepared for that big, big push."