On August 21, 2017, Oregon will be slammed. There will be a total eclipse of the sun. “The path of totality” will hit landfall on the beach at Newport, Oregon at 10:15 am—and then it will move west, passing across the country in a 60-mile wide strip, exiting over the shores of North and South Carolina.
Oregon is expecting about a million people (That’s like ten hundred thousand!) to literally camp out along the path of the solar eclipse. Oregon is famous for its mountains, rugged coastline, pristine wilderness, and amazing weather in August; it is not famous for having an infrastructure to handle large numbers of people. We are talking about a surge in the statewide population of 25% for about a week.
The word on the street is that I5 and other major corridors in the state will be parking lots. All the hotel rooms are booked and have been booked for a year or more. Campsites? Booked. Most of the cities in the path have been planning and looking at all the issues from emergency services to restroom availability, but most agree it is going to be weird.
Carmen lives in Portland and I live in Eugene. While neither of our communities is smack in the middle of the path, our towns will be crazy for a while. It will be a quick event. The moon is traveling about 1398 miles per hour. That means it will only spend about ten minutes over the State of Oregon. But moving a million people in and out of the state is a whole different matter.
How do you prepare for the Solar Eclipse 2017? Here are some of the tips from eclipse websites:
- Plan to allow plenty of time for everything.
- Plan to be in place for the totality well in advance of the totality.
- Plan to be self-supporting; bring food, and pack out your garbage.
- Be patient. Be nice.
You may have noticed the operable word, “plan.” The eclipse is an apt example of a specific kind of Slammed phenomenon. A city official in Salem, Oregon said “We have known this was coming. And we have known that our infrastructure will not be able to accommodate the surge of people that will arrive some days before the 21st and stay for some time after.”
It’s a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that when people become slammed in the context of an event, (like a wedding, a major corporate event, or an eclipse) there are planning cycles and the opportunity to marshal and organize resources. There are communication cycles that can help with coordination and logistics. And there is the blessed reality that the event will conclude; there is an end to the craziness.
The bad news is that even the best plans can’t account for every contingency. To borrow from Hunter Thompson, “When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.” In other words, the odds of something not-so-great happening are very high. And in slammed situations, failures can cascade quickly. You actually have to think through all of these possible disaster scenarios and hope you never have to actually deal with a crisis.
No matter what, the eclipse will be a great chance to see human nature on display. We will see how a state prepares to be slammed, and how the people drawn to this once in a lifetime opportunity will behave and manage.
Apparently, the eclipse is a full sensory experience. Animals behave differently, birdsongs change, and the temperature will fall quickly, making for an eerie effect; a brush with our place in the cosmos. My plan is to be still and listen deeply. While I sit away from the fray, on my back deck. If I can avoid being slammed, I will.