Officials urge preparation ahead of eclipse

LIMA — As long as area residents are prepared, the total solar eclipse on April 8 will be a once-in-a-lifetime memorable event.

The Allen County Emergency Management Agency just doesn’t want people to be in the dark about what the influx of 100,000 people into the county in a month and a half to see the celestial event could mean to everyday life.

“They need to expect some extreme stress that day on the cellular network,” Jared Gesler, the deputy director of the Allen County Emergency Management Agency, told the Lima Rotary Club on Monday at Veterans Memorial Civic Center. “With cell phones, it’s extremely likely to not work.”

The same can be expected with possible gridlock on area roadways. While the total blocking of the sun by the moon is expected to last 3 minutes, 52 seconds in Lima — from 3:09:49 p.m. to 3:13:41 p.m. April 8 — it could take hours before people leaving the area can reach full speed.

Officials have closely studied the total eclipse in 2017 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where motorists waited more than six hours to get moving as they all left at the same time.

Gesler said he was looking forward to the event, but he wants area residents to be ready for the onslaught of visitors for the first totality seen in Ohio since 1806.

With all the sky-watchers coming to the area, businesses should be ready for a run on all kinds of products. He urged people to make sure their own resources, such as a full tank of gas, are met by the Thursday prior, April 4, as gas stations could run out of their supplies.

Much of the concern is about the reliance on cellular networks, though. He noted providers have capacity for a little more than normal here, but they’ll be pushed to capacity.

“Think about how hard it is to get a signal at the Allen County Fair,” Gesler said. “It will be much worse than that.”

Area agencies have been working together for months to try to soften the blow, including asking major businesses to change their delivery dates on items. Some companies have decided to close for the day or adjust hours to keep people off the roads when the region’s guests are trying to get out of here.

They’re also working with area law enforcement to make sure they’re able to respond to whatever issues might pop up. With much of Ohio and all neighboring counties sharing the total solar eclipse, they’re hoping for help from farther away, but nothing’s settled yet on that, Gesler said.

They continue to work with other agencies, including hospitals and first responders, to make the solar eclipse a positive experience.

“We’re praying for a great day, and everything goes off without anybody doing anything wrong,” Gesler said.

Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.