‘Everything will come to a standstill’: Erie County announces solar eclipse plans

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Most eyes will on the sky for the total solar eclipse, especially here in Western New York.

The final planning for the total solar eclipse is underway and County Executive Mark Poloncarz says businesses should close on April 8 to keep local traffic off the roads. This is in an effort to keep roads clear for first responders and visitors coming for the day.

“Planning for the worst, and hoping for the best. I think we are doing really well. We have a lot of the puzzle pieces already in place,” Deputy Commissioner of Preparedness and Homeland Security Gregory Butcher said.

Erie County says it is seeing clearly and planning for the total solar eclipse that is less than 40 days away. Part of the plan is asking businesses to close that day to keep regular traffic off the roads. The county estimates nearly one million visitors could be coming to the area, which could clog up roadways for first responders.

Why is the 2024 total solar eclipse so unique?

“That doubling will impact things. People will still fall, still get hurt, still have medically emergencies and require the need to go to hospitals, which we are again back to looking at traffic. That’s why that is the biggest portion,” Butcher said.

Poloncarz said this won’t be like a snow storm, and there won’t be a driving ban, but he is encouraging businesses to close to keep regular traffic off the roads.

“There’s not going to be driving bans. The roads are going to be open. What we want people to understand is the best place to watch the eclipse is probably at your home,” Poloncarz explained.

Cell service could be impacted with more phones in the area. Cellular on wheels will be deployed in the county to help that.

“They will have those in the area to help facilitate any potential for impacts in a dramatic increase of cellular activity,” Butcher said.

Poloncarz said he spoke with officials from Nashville who planned for a solar eclipse back in 2017. They said everything comes to a stop when it happens.

“People will pull along the side of the road. We are not just talking about Delaware and Elmwood in Buffalo. We’re talking about the New York State Thruway. The 190, 290, people will pull their cars to the side or just stop in the middle of the road to witness it,” Poloncarz said.

Renting your house during the solar eclipse? Keep this in mind

Travel will likely be impacted region wide and traffic on the roads will be more congested than normal. There will be some interruptions in NFTA bus service. It will be running as normal, but will stop during the time of totality. Rail service will go as normal.

The international bridges into Canada will not close during the eclipse, but both Customs and Border Protection and the Canada Border Services are expecting a lot of Canadian visitors coming to the region.

The airport will be busy because that is the first day back from spring break. There could be a delay during the eclipse, but that is decided by the FAA.

Finally, the county will be opening it’s emergency operations center and says it’s used lessons learned from other major events and storms to prepare for this day.

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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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