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Health, Science & Environment

Ohio agencies outline their solar eclipse preparations and suggestions

Gov. Mike DeWine models solar eclipse glasses after a press conference in April 2024.
Sarah Donaldson
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine models solar eclipse glasses after a press conference in April 2024.

Ohio is in the final phase of preparations for the total solar eclipse Monday, and a handful of agencies said it's all hands on deck through the astronomical event that could, potentially, pull hundreds of thousands of visitors into the state's orbit.

Officials with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA), State Highway Patrol (OHSP), and Departments of Transportation (ODOT) and Natural Resources (ODNR) said Friday their agencies will be at higher staffing levels through early next week. Some will converge in the centralized Ohio Emergency Operations Center, which DeWine announced he was activating starting Sunday.

Although the historic day should be far from “gloom and doom,” Gov. Mike DeWine said, the state is urging residents and out-of-state visitors alike to pack their glasses and “patience.”

“Our local communities have been working to prepare for this influx of visitors, but there's no way around the fact that there will be incredibly heavy traffic and very large crowds,” DeWine said.

Heading into Monday, traffic congestion is one of the biggest concerns—particularly after the main event passes. “Then everyone wants to go home,” he said.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said, however, the average number of cars across Ohio's interstates and other highways could begin increasing as soon as Saturday. The state has little precedent to go off of, but has sought advice from other states in the 2017 path of totality, including Kentucky and Tennessee.

The agency will monitor traffic through its regular network of cameras. It is also limiting lane closures in work zones. “ODOT is treating this once in a lifetime event as a major weather event,” Marchbanks said.

For ODNR, it's more like a “major fireworks event,” said Director Mary Mertz.

For in-state travelers and out-of-state visitors, officials are also recommending:

  • Decide on a viewing location ahead of time, and get to it early
  • Don't treat the sides of roads as a viewing location
  • Fill your gas tank frequently, and if you drive an electric vehicle, charge it fully
  • Go old-school with directions—if cell phone signal gets dicey, have a paper map on reserve
  • Have an emergency kit on hand, including snacks, drinks, cash and chargers
  • Be aware of where to shelter, just in case
  • When it's time to look at the sky, throw on a pair of certified eclipse glasses—sunglasses aren't a proper stand-in

“This is not gloom and doom,” DeWine said. “This should be a fun day, should be an interesting day for people and we just want people, everybody to have a good time. That's what our goal is.”

The Ohio National Guard has not been activated, DeWine said, but is on standby.

Sarah Donaldson covers government, policy, politics and elections for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. Contact her at sdonaldson@statehousenews.org.