2017 Year in Review: Story #2: Total Solar Eclipse

Staff Writer

One of the area’s biggest stories (in fact, it was one of the largest national events, as well) was the total solar eclipse that took place on Monday, Aug. 21.
Not only did nature exhibit itself with amazing beauty, but mankind inserted itself into the affair with a monumental traffic tie-up after Mother Nature’s pyrotechnics.
On Aug. 22, the Blackfoot Morning News reported the eclipse thusly:
The total solar eclipse was enjoyed by thousands and surpassed all expectations. It was the fastest minute on record. About the time people could see the “solar ring” and then the corona, the moon was moving across the sun; bright sunshine returned and the temperature warmed up.
When the moon looked like the moon was “eating” the sun, the temperature dropped, it looked like evening was coming and people could see crescent shapes on the ground through the leaves of the trees.
Karla Ehlers from Boise said, “It’s one of these things that lived up to its hype and exceeded it completely.”
“I can see why people travel around the world to see the next total eclipse,” Tim Mielke from Helena, Montana.
Thousands of visitors came into southeast Idaho to see the eclipse. The total number of car traffic will be determined at a later date.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland said, “We (the sheriff and his deputies) were real busy today, Sunday and Friday. There were a few crashes but nothing serious.”
The sheriff’s office has been preparing for this event for about six weeks. Since Friday, every deputy was on duty, working 12-hour shifts.
“Yes, the preparation was worth it,” Rowland said.
R. Scott Reese, Emergency Management Director for Bingham County, said, “The only difficulty was when the webcams of the Idaho Transportation Department went down.”
The webcams were soon up.
Visitors just trickled into the area before the eclipse.
“We knew there would be lots traffic after the eclipse,” Reese said. “We were prepared for it.”
Emergency planners from a variety of counties, including the emergency planner from Teton County, Wyoming, started planning for this event in January.
Asked if there were accidents, Reese said, “Traffic needed to be diverted on Hwy. 91 because of an accident (on Monday afternoon). Idaho State Police (ISP) reported minor accidents.”
He added, “Overall, it was a huge success; it showcased what we have in this area.”
“I watched the eclipse from the North Bingham County Historical Park in Shelley and counted 310 vehicles in the parking lot there, Reese said. “Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Some people reported it took them two hour to travel from Idaho Falls to Firth.”
A freak accident occurred in Bannock County. A fire threatened homes and property.
“As firefighters were heading to the fire, a gas can fell off the firetruck,” Reese said. “The truck ran over the gas can, causing the gas can to ignite. Three firemen were injured; one seriously. The firetruck was totaled. No homes or property were damaged.”
He added, “I’m thrilled all the agencies and departments worked together; it’s a huge success. It was a partnership, in real time, involving BLM, Blackfoot and Shelley police departments; the Bingham County Sheriff’s office, Emergency Medical Services, the health department, hospitals and the National Guard at pre-positioned sites, among others.”
Reese said, “The Idaho Central Credit Union (ICCU) provided free solar glasses for all the sheriff’s deputies. I think the deputies were able to take a little time off to see the eclipse.”