At the final meeting of the eclipse planning committee, members of area law enforcement gave updates.
“We’re working vigorously and expeditiously to try to figure out our plan,” Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said during the Tuesday meeting.
The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse is expected to bring thousands of travelers to Missouri, which will pose safety challenges.
Chism said the normally scheduled deputies would be on duty in their usual areas. In addition, off-duty deputies will be at events and other potential hot spots. Some may be sent to Jefferson City, which has requested additional help.
“They’re expecting 75,000 (visitors), with most of their events happening north of the river — which is in Callaway County,” Chism explained.
Chism and other officials have been coordinating with those planning events throughout the county in order to handle traffic and security concerns.
Tom Jones, a member of the eclipse planning committee, said he recalls trouble during previous crowd-drawing events.
“My dad’s car got stolen when (former Soviet President Mikhail) Gorbachev was here (in 1992),” Jones said. “People need to be reminded to close their windows and lock their cars.”
According to Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers, there’s little cause to worry as long as common-sense precautions are followed.
“We’ve received a risk assessment from the FBI, and I can tell you that they do not see any major issues,” Myers said.
The main issue will likely be traffic. The Missouri Department of Transportation said on Tuesday most road work in the state will be suspended on Aug. 21. Additionally, the bridge repairs in Kingdom City have likely been delayed to September. However, one westbound lane of the of U.S. 54 over Middle River will be closed, along with the Route O bridge over Crow’s Fork Creek.
Myers said in Fulton, 5th Street will be closed between Market and Nichols streets on Aug. 17, and part of 7th Street will be closed Aug. 21 near Westminster College around the time of the eclipse.
Planners are having to deal with both excitement and uncertainty, as both weather and level of attendance are currently impossible to predict.
“We don’t know what to expect,” Callaway County Tourism Director Renee Graham said. “We don’t want to (insist) that traffic will be bad to a degree that nobody comes. This could be huge or it could be much ado about nothing; we just don’t know.”
Regardless of the final numbers, it’s clear Fulton and Callaway County will host plenty of visitors.
Tiffany Genarro, general manager of Fulton’s Baymont Inn, said her hotel is booked solid for Sunday night and only has a few rooms available for the night of the eclipse.
For more information about the eclipse and events in the area, go to visitfulton.com/eclipse.html.
By Helen Wilbers | Fulton Sun