Excitement for eclipse overshadows concerns

© 2018-Uinta County Herald

EVANSTON — “This is the place to be,” Evanston Chamber of Commerce Director Marion McLean said, referring to next week’s solar eclipse.

Falling just south of the eclipse’s direct pathway, Uinta County is expected to experience coverage of up to 94 percent of the sun. The area’s proximity to the line of totality is guaranteed to bring in new business and additional traffic. Area businesses are advised to beef up on staff and supplies. Locals residents are advised to stock up on patience when out on Wyoming roadways. 

“Anticipate longer travel times and make sure you have extra food and drink,” advised Uinta County Emergency Manager Kim West.

McLean also stressed, “What would normally take you two hours is likely going to take you four and a half.”

The longer lines at red lights, restaurants and gas stations are expected to begin early in the week for Uinta County as travelers pass through on their way to central Wyoming for the eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. 

Costa Vida Director of Operations Terri Lundin said, “We’re expected to start getting busy by next Wednesday.” 

The eatery is preparing for the big week by training new staffers and by utilizing tablet technology in the drive through. Lundin welcomes the challenge, saying, “We are totally excited to see the travelers passing through.” 

The crowds bring with them opportunities for Evanston to make its mark on the map with new patrons passing through. 

“Evanston needs to gear up and make sure to make the best impression,” advised McLean. 

The Wyoming Tourism Board released a statement predicting that nearly 250,000 non-Wyoming residents will be traveling through Wyoming in the next week. That’s nearly half of the cowboy state’s total population. 

Evanston routinely has 1000 hotel rooms available. Out of those, only 300 remain available for the dates on and around the eclipse. With so many thousands and thousands of visitors passing through, McLean thinks that “Evanston will see a big boost.”

The city of Evanston is hosting a celebration from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Historic Depot Square on Aug. 21. A $5 admission fee will get you in for kids activities, giveaways, a DJ, and solar eclipse gear. At the event, Evanston Regional Hospital and the library will be giving out solar viewing glasses. 

“It is important that people not stare directly at the sun. It can cause severe damage,” West warned. 

It is particularly important that parents help their children, especially infants, shield their eyes from the sun with protective eye wear. 

NASA advises that individuals who plan on viewing the eclipse check their glasses to make sure they meet the basic safety standards. Home made filters, solar glasses that are older than three years and regular sunglasses are not able to do the job of protecting your eyes from sun damage. 

Bear River State Park is also hosting an eclipse event. Those interested in participating should meet at the Bear River State Park Visitor Center at 10 a.m. with cameras, water and binoculars. 

For months, even years, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) has been working on projections for total visitorship and solutions for congestion during the days leading up to, during and following this outer-earthly phenomenon. 

In a statement released earlier this year, WYDOT stated that the Wyoming Highway Patrol will not be “issuing any oversized or overweight permits on Aug. 20, 21 and 22 to help with traffic flow.” 

Local officials and business owners agreed; they hope the bustling streets, long lines and influx of people don’t overshadow this once-in-a-lifetime eclipse. 

“It will be a fun event that doesn’t happen very often but people need to put safety first,” West said.

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