Local businesses prepare for eclipse crowds
Local businesses are adjusting operations to get ready for the onslaught of tourists arriving to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joe Krenowicz said they began planning for the event two years ago.
"We reached out to businesses the first part of the year, and have held eight focus meetings to address what we know will occur," Krenowicz said.
"My message to businesses is to take care of our community first and prepare for the influx; secondly, take care of our solar guests in both private and governmental sectors; and thirdly, make sure your company and staff can enjoy the event. Close up shop for an hour during the eclipse," he said.
Earlier this year, the chamber sent out suggestions for local businesses to consider as they prepared to handle eclipse crowds from Aug. 17-28.
Suggestions included hiring extra staff, being open longer hours, increasing inventory of food and other items, having additional cash on hand for making change, and having a plan for handling increased trash.
"We may experience congestion on the internet, and businesses may have to use old-style manual credit card machines and slips," Krenowicz noted.
Delivery trucks probably won't be able to bring in more supplies, because traffic will be congested on the highways.
To help, he said chamber office assistant Davida Plaisted "arranged to get a 26-foot refrigerated trailer and four restaurants are sharing it for extra inventory. It will be parked in the chamber's parking lot."
With clogged roads and highways, employees may not be able to drive to work, or find a parking spot once they get there. Businesses were asked to plan how to manage their parking areas, and discourage visitors from parking in certain areas with flags or barriers.
"A lot of the businesses are encouraging staff who have campers or tents to stay with friends in town, so they can bicycle or walk to work," Krenowicz said.
Businesses were asked if they need to be open, or would generate any sales on Monday, the day of the eclipse. If not, he suggested that they consider giving employees the day off to cut down on congestion.
"The essential businesses are restaurants, gas stations, hardware stores (for repairs), and grocery stores," he said, adding, "Most banks will be open after the eclipse on Monday to help the businesses."
For those able to make it to work, businesses were asked to prepare them for handling long lines of people of different nationalities. "There may be some language problems, but most people understand the money system," Krenowicz laughed.
To handle sanitation, some 680 port-a-potties will be placed around Jefferson County, and 135 of those will be in Madras and the airport area.
Krenowicz said the state will be placing two portable Trip Check cameras in Madras, so people can view the traffic situation.
"On Aug. 1, I sent the last notice to Oregon, Idaho, Washington and California trucking associations, so they can reroute their trucks that week. The first notice was sent a year ago," he said.
Krenowicz said he was really proud of all the collaboration between entities on planning for the event.
"We reached out to neighboring counties, and the Oregon Department of Transportation has thrown a lot of resources at this. Also Deschutes County stepped up, and the Emergency Management Information Center, based in Redmond, will have satellite centers in Madras, Culver, Camp Sherman and other areas," he said.
"We're looking forward to seeing what we've all been able to accomplish. But what a neat experience to go through," Krenowicz said, of the total eclipse and chance to host visitors from all over the world.