On a normal day, about 200,000 folks call Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties home. And in about one week, the Deschutes County Sheriff's office estimates an extra 200,000 people will begin flowing into the area to experience the Great American Eclipse taking place Aug. 21.
Regionally, the Oregon Department of Transportation estimates a whopping 1 million people will flock to the entire state. Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesperson, says: "The eclipse will cause the biggest traffic event in Oregon history."
So how are local organizations doing in terms of gas, food and such?
Spoiler alert: They don't have many recent examples to go from, since the last American eclipse was in 1979.
Essentials: Beer, of CourseN
ewest Bend grocery store, Market of Choice, is making contingency plans by adding in extra auxiliary refrigeration and freezer units and stocking up on non-perishables ahead of time. They've been filling their Redmond area warehouse, so some refills can be within a 20-mile radius, instead of from the Portland or Eugene areas where they usually receive shipments. To combat eclipse traffic, they're rescheduling produce deliveries from early morning to late nights, "at around 1 am," to try to avoid traffic, says Store Manager Casey Capell. They're also scrapping smaller vendor deliveries all together.
"We're planning for the worst and hoping for the best," Capell says.
With his finger on the pulse of happenings in the region, Capell is aware most locals are being told to stock up ahead of time. In the next two weeks they'll be "on their feet, observing the situation and making decisions as they see needs arise."
Capell says his team is also focused on the safety of his staff, assessing whether employees who travel from Redmond or other areas may need to have that time off per ODOT's estimation that highways will be significantly backed up.
High volume also yields to increased security concerns. "Looting?" we ask. "No, not quite," he says, "More like opportunities packing up their grocery cart with goods and walking out the door. We're all hands on deck during this time, so we'll have staff members closely monitoring the doors and the situation."
The most important products they're stocking up on? Capell says, "Water, ice and of course, beer."
Similarly, the Bend Costco has been prepping for three months, said Dave Harruff, Costco vice president for the Northwest region. "We've had several meetings with the warehouse managers in Oregon, including Bend and the buyers about making sure we have the right items and the right quantities to take care of business during the Eclipse."
Harruff noted that the Bend location has experienced a "strong increase" in sales, "starting last week," but noted that it's due in part because Costco has been supplying food and drinks to area firefighters.
Even with visibly lengthy lines earlier this week, Harruff is confident that they are "ready for extra business."
Ashley Volz, emergency services coordinator for the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office said, "Residents should stock up on all essentials — groceries, gas, toilet paper, pet food — by no later than Aug. 16."
The Central Oregon Emergency website (Coemergencyinfo.blogspot.com) also gives extra guidelines which locals should familiarize themselves with.
- Spotted coming out of the Bend Costco, plastic water bottles galore.
Running on Empty"S
ick of tourists?" asks Scott Jameson. "You ain't seen nothing yet." Jameson works for one of four local gas stations who the Source Weekly spoke with for this story—where all say the same thing: there's only so much gas a station can hold, and they can't really prep for much else.
Jameson, a gas attendant for nearly four years, says there's buzz from managers about possibly running out of gas close to the Aug. 21 event. He laughs, "They tell us to brace ourselves, but we don't have much guidance." Jameson says he's noticed an influx of tourists already, but can't really say if it's because of the eclipse or normal summer traffic. He says he's seen license plates from the usuals — California, Washington, British Columbia — and some unusuals, "Belgium was a weird one... I didn't think they could get in with those Euro-plates."
Neeri, who works at the westside Shell gas station, plans to escape calamity by biking into work. He says his bosses haven't given any specifics on extra fills, but that tankers come in roughly "every day or every other day already." His prediction? "One of three things: either we'll be fine, get totally swamped or be bone dry."
Jay P., a manager at Westside Food Mart, hasn't made any extra contingency plans. "No, not that I'm aware of, we're just treating it as normal."
Perhaps not too reassuring for anyone who chooses to look at the eclipse in a doomsday prepper sort of situation. But although you may not be able to drive anywhere — if there's an emergency — you'll receive plenty of help.
Spare Hands: Calling in Backup"T
he population of the region is expected to double, which means we expect to see at least double the number of patients at our facilities," says Lisa Goodman, public information officer for St. Charles Health System. The healthcare provider is combatting the pressure by restricting time-off requests and fully staffing their hospitals. "We've established an Emergency Coordination Center, which is making sure our hospitals and clinics have the supplies and staffing they need to meet the health care demands of our region during that time." One of the ways they're meeting demand is by hiring an extra 40 traveling nurses from outside the region.
Bend's population was five times lower — at approximately 17,000, according to historical data — when the last total solar eclipse passed through in 1979. With change comes improvements in infrastructure, but still, a double squeeze on infrastructure leaves some worried whether the region can handle serious calamity.
- Don't be like this dude. Stock up on beer early.
St. Charles' Goodman says their newest addition — a newly renovated hospital and expanded emergency room in Madras—is just that response to increased infrastructure. The center can treat critical injuries, without flying people to outlying communities—which may also be facing increased strain. "Additionally, we've received waivers from the state that will provide us some flexibility in how we provide our services," says Goodman. Meanwhile, the Deschutes County Coroner's office is also networking with local funeral homes in case of catastrophe.
All in all, when viewing this celestial spectacle, it will be locals who plan accordingly and stock up ahead of time who will help local businesses and organizations weather the impending storm.
Capell jokes, "In the end, we'll hold on for dear life and hope for the best. If we run out of one six pack of beer, it won't be the end of the world."