TORRINGTON – The adage warns us “there are only two things in life that are certain, death and taxes,” but this year there is one more certainty to add to the list, the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. It is on schedule, on course and headed straight for Goshen County on Aug. 21.
What is uncertain, however, is exactly what its appearance means for the county. Will it bring 10,000 tourists or just a couple of hundred lookie-loos? Will traffic come to a halt or just slow down a little? How much lead time will be needed to order a pizza and have it delivered?
One person who is hoping for the best, but doing everything she can to prepare for the worst, is Shelly Kirchhefer, Goshen County Emergency Management Coordinator, who is working closely with all of the county’s first responders and emergency service providers to help ensure that Aug. 21 is as safe and commonplace as any other summer day. Last week, Kirchhefer held a meeting with first responders to review contingencies that could occur on that Monday in Aug., and department plans to deal with
“There was about 35 people at the meeting Thursday evening,” she said. “We had representatives from all of the Goshen County Fire Districts, the Cheyenne Fire Emergency Response Team, Laramie County Emergency Management, the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Goshen County Road and Bridge, commissioner Wally Wolski, Jennifer Lanier from the solar eclipse committee and Captain Shawn Dickenson from the Wyoming Highway Patrol Office in Casper.
“My job is the safety of the county and to do that I need to make sure the efforts of our first responders are coordinated, including fire, EMS and law enforcement.”
After months of consideration and discussion, Kirchhefer and her team of first responders identified several areas of concern she believes need to be addressed prior to the eclipse that will help ensure an enjoyable event. Their list of concerns include,
• Loss of cell phone service.
• Traffic congestion.
• Parking issues.
• Wildland fires.
• Clear and helpful signage.
• Any medical emergencies, especially heat related issues and increased call volume.
• Ineffectiveness and inaccuracy of GPS service through out
• Poisonous snakes.
• Increased demand on internet services, especially for routine operations and credit card services.
• Sanitation services, such as the need for porta pots and the added stress to water, sewer and trash services.
• Increase in incidents of trespassing.
• Availability of food and fuel.
Kirchhefer also pointed out another concern, weather.
“One thing that is drawing people to Wyoming for the eclipse is the 97 percent chance the skies will be clear on Aug. 21. But what if they aren’t? What if its cloudy in Casper and clear down here? Or vise versa? We could see a mass exodus of people trying to get from where its cloudy to some place
Also the path of totality will be north of Torrington, where there are wide open spaces, like Prairie Center and Jay Em. But most of that country is private property. The sheriff has reminded property owners in those ares they can’t restrict access to or travel on county roads, but they can report clear cases of trespassing.”
As emergency management coordinator, Kircheffer doesn’t often have to get involved with issues of retail sales and food services, but the lack preparation in the retail sectors could create indirect problems in
“You know how crowded it gets in our restaurants during lunchtime, especially the fast food restaurants,” she said. “Now, add just another couple of hundred people to that, or a thousand. When people can’t get food or service here, they’ll just think they can go down the road to Lingle or Fort Laramie and get food, not thinking this isn’t the Front Range
“It won’t take much to start backing up traffic in the county.”
Fortunately, Kircheffer said, most of the people responsible for the safety of county residents have been planning for the eclipse for
“The sheriff’s department has divided the county into districts, the northwest, northeast and south. And all the deputies will be on duty that day.
“The Torrington PD will have two dispatchers manning the phones and all boots will be on deck. The hospital will have all of their personnel on call and the clinic will run urgent care all weekend.”
She also said that emergency medical services will be fully staffed during the weekend of Aug. 19 and the fire districts will have first aid stations set up in Fort Laramie, Lingle and at the Old Fort, which, she said, is expecting between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors.
“There will be four national law enforcement officers in the park, but we will be available to assist if needed,” Kirchhefer added. “One concern is the highway patrol will only have two, single man cars in the county. The rest will be patrolling the interstate.”
Kirchhefer expects guests to start ???? on Aug. 18, the Friday before the eclipse.
“Friday will be day one, when we’ll see an influx of pre-planners, those people staying with friends or relatives, or who made reservations early at motels or
“The pre-planners will start tampering off on Sunday evening, and then on Monday will start seeing the day trippers. The people from Colorado who get up Monday morning and decide they’ll take a leisurely drive up the interstate or Highway 85 to see the eclipse. That is when the real bottle neck will start
“But we are going to do everything we can to be prepared for any contingency. The eclipse is coming whether we are prepared or not, so we may as well