SISTERS — State and local emergency services officials on Tuesday offered a look at how Sisters is preparing for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, which is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Central Oregon, and the message echoed across most agencies: Don’t go anywhere if you don’t have to.
About 200 Sisters residents attended two presentations from Central Oregon law enforcement and emergency preparedness officials that Sisters City Manager Brant Kucero said should encourage public confidence in the preparations for the event.
“This level of cooperation will help prepare us as best as we can,” Kucero said, “though we won’t know how things will shake out until they do.”
Officials from Sisters Public Works, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service, and state and Sisters-Camp Sherman fire officials explained how the influx of people will affect the town.
The main concern across Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties is the traffic congestion that could limit vehicle access for emergency services. Sisters traffic will be detoured off the highway to protect the number of pedestrians that travel through downtown crosswalks, said Sisters Public Works Director Paul Bertagna.
“People will still be able to access, but this would be a good time to explore Sisters on bikes or walking,” he said.
Sisters will see an increase in garbage collection, and public works officials will be working in 12-hour shifts through the week of the eclipse to keep up with increase of people.
The city’s water supply is not currently operating at capacity, and the city should be well-served, Bertagna said.
One of the main concerns will be the waste from RVs. Creekside Campground will be open for public dumping, and all park restrooms will be constantly stocked and maintained, he said.
“I just saw the order of toilet paper, and it’s half the size of this room,” Bertagna said jokingly.
Nathan Garibay, emergency services manager for the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, warned residents about the unreliability of cellphones in an emergency event and the increase in people making calls could slow things tremendously during the week of the “apoc-eclipse,” he said.
He also encouraged residents in Sisters — despite being located on the outskirts of the path of totality — to plan ahead, and stock up on groceries, fuel and medications needed so that local businesses have the chance to restock before the influx of people. While the event is not considered a disaster, the event preparations are very similar, he said.
About 200,000 people are expected to witness the rare celestial event, he said.
“We want to be accommodating hosts to these people, but we also want to be monitoring the situation and preparing for how to do it safely,” Garibay said.
U.S. Forest Service Central Oregon Fire Management officer James Corbin said the Forest Service will have officers camped out in different regions to make sure emergency response times are still sufficient. Discussions are still ongoing regarding the restrictions on campfires, he said, but for now campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds and are banned in areas where there are no hookups for water and sewer for RVs.
There will be an increase in fire engines from multiple agencies, and local ambulances will all be in use. Road 1490/Green Ridge will be closed and used for emergency access.
Green Ridge Lookout will be used for administration and staging purposes for Forest Service officials, and Black Butte will be closed to vehicles, as well.
“We are going to get things set up ahead of time because otherwise our best option would be dropping bulldozers in Redmond and getting out to push (them),” said Ben Duda, Oregon Department of Forestry, assistant unit forester in Sisters. “It’s not my term, so I can’t take credit for this, but the best description I have heard is that this will be a human tsunami.”
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