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What is a solar eclipse, why is the 2024 event so significant, and how are we planning?

As part of our education campaign to the public, we wanted to start off with telling residents of McCurtain County what a total solar eclipse is and why this event is significant to us. Through this series of educational pieces, we hope to help you understand the gravity of this event and the impact it could have on you and our community.


What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth which completely blocks the face of the sun. On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will pass over Mexico, the United States and Canada. During this total eclipse, it will be as if it is dusk or dawn outside.


Sounds cool: So what does this have to do with me and McCurtain County?

Great question.


So, McCurtain County will be one of the places during this event on April 8, 2024, wherein total blockage of the sun will occur and where it will last the longest. In fact, Idabel is expected to experience a total solar eclipse that will last for over four minutes.


A total solar eclipse occurs every eighteen months, thereabouts, but where it can be viewed from depends. As the East rotates, the parts of the world where it can be seen, varies. In 2017, a total solar eclipse, for instance, was visible just outside of Yellowstone National Park in a small rural town known as Jackson Hole.


Solar eclipse viewers come from all over the world to see this phenomenon and the event coming to our area on April 8 will be no different. Recently, Vicky Smith, an event planner, researcher and organizer with the Musuem of the Red River, told a crowd of over 200 that this event in McCurtain County is drawing visitors from all over the United States, Egypt and other countries.


Emergency Management director, Cody McDaniel, told the same group that we can expect between 100,000 and 250,000 visitors to our area starting Friday, April 5 and lasting through Tuesday, April 10.


An event like this, drawing that many people, would be astronomically taxing on the counties' infrastructure. Roadways, to begin with, would come to a screeching halt with no way to pass through. McDaniel told attendees at a town hall meeting last week that in prior events, visitors simply popped up tents in the middle of road medians and highways, as well as ditches and fence lines. This much traffic into McCurtain County could easily jam cell towers and limit cell service; interrupt electrical power; deplete grocery supplies; fuel; and a number of other critical services.



So we know what's coming: What is officials doing to prepare?

A number of city, county, state and federal agencies are working together to prepare for this historic event. Vicky Smith, an employee of the Museum of the Red River, said she began looking at this event more than six years ago. Emergency Management director, Cody McDaniel, said when he first heard of the event, dismissed it and took little heed to the impact it could have on our area, initially. He quickly realized that this event could have very dire consequences in the county and began planning.


Each month, for many months, there has been a coalition meeting to plan. This coalition has consisted of law enforcement, emergency medical services, forestry and park services, city, county and state emergency management services, and the hospital.


The hospital also put together a team, known as the Eclipse Readiness Team, in mid-Summer of 2023 and has been meeting monthly to prepare and plan for this event. In December, the team began meeting every two weeks.


Several times a week going forward, up until the event, MMH will be releasing information to the public on how you can prepare. We will be releasing updates to the community on our meetings at hospital, our drills to plan for the event, as well as information we receive from the official preparedness plans discussed in the coalition meetings.


View the January 11 town hall meeting here: https://www.facebook.com/share/v/BXUMnRxbUrJhq4ZX/?mibextid=WC7FNe


View additional information here: https://www.facebook.com/HochatownUpdates



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