Daily Egyptian

City officials, business owners, locals brace for eclipse impact

By Samantha Keebler

With 50,000 to 100,000 eclipse tourists expected to flock to the Carbondale area in the coming days, there are increased risks for shortages of food and medicine, as well as potential public safety complications.

City officials and business owners are doing what they can to combat these possibilities and prepare for the crowds.  

Southern Illinois Healthcare officials are ready for what they’re calling “the long eclipse weekend,” said Rosslind Rice, the health care system’s communications director.

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“Our system as a whole has been preparing for the eclipse for over a year now — not only internally but externally,” she said, adding the preparations have been done in conjunction with police, fire and health departments in the area.

Rice said a number of simulations and emergency drills have been conducted to try to predict situations that may arise over eclipse weekend. The health facilities have also increased staffing levels and made additional bed space available in the emergency departments for overflow patients, she said.

All of this planning is for the chance that some disaster or mass casualty event could occur, Rice said. Among all departments in the system’s three hospitals, Rice said emergency departments are the most well-prepared for eclipse weekend.

Carbondale Chief of Police Jeff Grubbs said he thinks locals have been thoroughly briefed on what to expect during the weekend and his police force is equipped to handle the influx of people.  

“[We] will have teams of officers there to keep them safe and give them the directions they need,” Grubbs said.

Grubbs said there are also things the public can do to ensure their own safety.

Anyone partaking in eclipse festivities should travel with companions and stick together, Grubbs said, and also make sure they have stocked up on food and water while out and about.

He said the public can help by informing law enforcement officers if they see anything suspicious or dangerous.

“We think we’re going to have a good, safe weekend,” he said. “But we still need them to be the eyes and ears as well.”

Tony Harrison, the water operations manager for the Carbondale Water Department, said they are ready to meet the higher demand for water that could result from the crowds of people flooding the city.

Harris said although there is speculation on potential water shortages, he thinks Carbondale and the water department can handle it.

Restaurants and grocery stores in Carbondale have also been bracing for the weekend.

One of these is Cristaudo’s Café. Employees have been baking and decorating eclipse cookies for over a month.

Staff member Jennifer Rollinson said they are nervous but have done all the preparation they can.

“We are a little bit worried that we may run out,” Rollinson said. “But we’ve been preparing and coming up with numbers that project what we think we will need for the event.”

While Rollinson said she recognizes the restaurant could run out of food, she doesn’t think it’s likely.

“I feel fairly confident that we’ll have enough, based on other holidays and our busy times of the year,” she said.

Kroger employee Chloe Tabor said locals should carpool on their way to the store and get there before the out-of-towners arrive. She said it is probable supplies and food could be cleaned off the shelves already if people don’t get to the store soon enough before the rush of tourists arrive.

“Stock up on plenty of water,” she said. “Shop early in the morning before the crowds and before things get wiped off the shelf.”

Staff writer Samantha Keebler can be reached at [email protected]. 

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