City of Madras preparing for record number of visitors during solar eclipse
Posted August 9
Madras, OR — The City of Madras is bracing for a record number of visitors during the solar eclipse. The small Oregon town was identified by scientists as one of the premier viewing locations in the US.
Based on its unobstructed views in the high desert of central Oregon, Madras is expected to be the ultimate place to watch the solar eclipse. The town is located at the center of the path of totality, meaning Madras will be engulfed in two minutes and two seconds of total darkness.
"We were chosen as a location by astronomers, we didn't say 'hey why don't you come out to Madras for this,' so we had to put these things in place to do the right thing,' said City of Madras Solar Eclipse Planner Lysa Vattimo. "The city is spending a lot of money to make sure it's done well."
Vattimo is the woman in charge of preparing for the largest event in city history. The town of under 7,000 people now bracing for 100,000 plus visitors.
"It's challenged every skill set I have, but it's been wonderful and exciting," Vattimo added.
Aside from bringing in water vendors, trash cans and Porta Potty rentals for a record number of tourists, Vattimo is working with stores to stock up on food and gas stations to make sure they keep enough fuel in their reserves.
"We've asked all of the fueling stations in town to think about how and when they fill their underground tanks, because business will not be as usual for anyone and traffic will be a hindrance to getting supplies and services in town," said Vattimo.
Cell service is also a concern, though Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are set to bring in temporary towers to boost service. While that will help, Vattimo is not convinced that will carry the town through peak times.
Because of that, it's possible ATM's and other debit machines that rely on the internet will stop working. To that end, the city is urging all visitors to carry cash and asking retailers to be prepared.
"Restaurants are changing their menus and changing pricing to end in zeros so they don't make change, or they're having limited menus so they're not making as much food and get it turned over faster."
Traffic is a problem that's unavoidable, but Vattimo is working with city leaders to keep cars moving as best as possible over the weekend. They're also planning to close off side roads for first responders, who will be staging their rigs in different parts of town so they won't fight traffic in the event of an emergency.
But, no matter what the scenario, Vattimo said drivers should be prepared to sit in traffic after the eclipse. A recent poll of visitors indicates about half plan to leave Madras on Monday and the other half on Tuesday.
"There's going to be a lot of people that just have to get back to work, they have planes to catch, whatever it is, leaving on Monday is going to be rough. That's where we think we may have to institute changing signals to intersections in town to allow the exodus flow on the highway."
Vattimo estimates the City of Madras spent $100,000 on preparations to the town.
The city is urging all visitors to get their cars serviced ahead of time to avoid any issues and to pack a lot of food and water. They also want people to bring a fire extinguisher in their car, because fire danger will be high.