National Guard To Provide HAZMAT Response During The Total Solar Eclipse

National Guard To Provide HAZMAT Response During The Total Solar Eclipse

It’s not long now until the 2024 total solar eclipse and, weather permitting, it should be a spectacular celestial event. As exciting as it is, there are a number of safety concerns, particularly in the parts of the US that will be in the path of totality, with some now announcing the deployment of the National Guard. 

The 2017 total solar eclipse, gorgeous as it was, took place during the solar minimum, the part of the Sun’s 11-year cycle where activity is at its minimum. This year’s eclipse coincides with the solar maximum, meaning not only should we get a glorious corona, but streamers and prominences, bright, pink curls or loops coming from the Sun.  

While the main priority for eclipse viewers should of course be protecting their eyes, there have been a number of warnings from emergency officials in recent weeks to stock up on water, food and fuel ahead of the eclipse, as well as some schools in the path of totality being advised to shut. 

These warnings are not due to the eclipse itself, but because of the influx of tourists associated with it, and putting pressure on transport, emergency, and cell phone infrastructure that isn’t designed to cope with such a large number of people.

At the request of Oklahoma’s McCurtain County Emergency Management team, the Oklahoma National Guard will also be called in to help with potential problems.

“McCurtain County Emergency Management requested our support because they expect up to 100,000 additional people visiting their communities to watch the eclipse,” Lt. Col. Jabonn Flurry, 63rd CST commander of the Oklahoma National Guard said in a statement

“This influx of visitors has the potential to overtax local resources and thanks to the training and experience our Guardsmen have working alongside local agencies all across Oklahoma, the CST is uniquely qualified to support our fellow Oklahomans.”

The Oklahoma guard will provide hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response capabilities during the eclipse, such as responding to industrial fires and lightening the load on local emergency workers.

There have been people online claiming this is an overreaction along the lines of “We didn’t have these kinds of warnings in 2017/some previous eclipse and everything was fine!” to which the answer is: yes we did, and no it wasn’t. Ahead of the 2017 eclipse, local government planned for an increase in visitors, but traffic congestion was still a problem.

“The millions of people drawn to locations along the eclipse path taxed limited transportation facilities, and traffic congestion was intense in many locations,” transportation engineering consultant Jonathan Upchurch explained in Transportation Research News.

“Across the country, Interstate highways near the path of totality experienced traffic congestion shortly after the eclipse, with longer-than-normal travel times on Interstate highways. For example, travel from Casper, Wyoming, to Denver, Colorado— normally a 4-hour trip—took 10 hours or more.  Traffic congestion on rural Interstate routes lasted for up to 13 hours after the eclipse.”

Additionally, though you may have missed them, there were warnings in place ahead of the 2017 eclipse. What’s more, they were effective, so it makes sense that officials are using them ahead of this year’s eclipse.

“The data showed that Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming had the most significant traffic increase on the eclipse day compared to other states,” a paper on traffic management during the 2017 eclipse explains.

“Interestingly, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri had reduced daily traffic, one of the reasons might be the advice from transportation agencies for people to reduce their errands during the eclipse week.”

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