Observations and reflections of Saturday, eclipse weekend Day 2. It’s a mixed bag.
For months we’ve been saying we don’t know what to expect when the eclipse became imminent. Nonetheless, I found myself creating some expectations based on calculated guesses, elected officials’ planning and preparation, and… my gut.
I have heard from listeners, fellow media colleagues, and friends as we’ve witnessed something a little strange. None — and I mean absolutely NONE — of the nightmare or inconvenient scenarios have manifested themselves — other than the fairly innocuous self-created ones when we locals made a run on the grocery stores and created some very temporary and isolated shortages.
This, really, was, is, and will be the big concern. I had a great opportunity to do a ride-along with the Idaho State Police this morning. Highway 20 was busy, but it usually is. Maybe a slight visible uptick in traffic frequency, but nothing to slow traffic flow at full speed.
Furthermore, steady checks of our Eclipse Traffic highway camera compilation page, found here http://590kid.com/eclipsetraffic/
showed no signs of irregularly high traffic. However, Ben Burke, the ITD’s Regional Traffic Engineer told us that I-15 had approximately 13,000 northbound vehicle trips just north of the Utah/Idaho border on Friday. The very same Friday last year had around 8,000. That’s a 60 per cent increase. So… while we may not see it, they are coming.
We did spend some time on I-15 between Shelley and Idaho Falls. It was busy. A lot of RV’s and out of state plates — which could be said for many summer Saturdays — but it did seem to be a robust flow of traffic, even if the imagery isn’t meeting our most extreme expectations. You can watch a time-lapse of the traffic here:
I ran a speed test on my phone (T-Mobile, no less, which is terrible) and my speeds have remained super fast. We’ve heard of no cell or data slow downs. Our data-based phones and communications systems have worked flawlessly, at least here at KID.
While we did not make a stop to the command center, we talked with a number of people who were there and are involved in emergency communications. To be flip… it sounded like a group of Maytag repairmen. Very quiet. We also made a call to EIRMC. It’s been a relatively quiet day for them as well.
For all of this, we should be grateful.
So far (and I stress “so far” because we have another full day and a half before the big moment) the Great American Eclipse in east Idaho has been, well, sedate. A picture from a friend at Sam’s Club showed eerily empty aisles. Similar reports came in from other big box retail and grocery stores. Perhaps most locals stocked up earlier in the week to avoid the crowds, and the visitors came prepared with supplies to avoid the locals (I jest). So this may not be terribly surprising, but it was not anticipated.
We’ve received pictures from a few outdoor events with pop-up canopy vendors hoping to cash in. From what we can see, they may have been disappointed today.
We drove through the parking lot of Wal-Mart on Utah Avenue in Idaho Falls to simply survey license plates. I was surprised at how un-diverse the array of plates was. Largely Idaho plates (80 per cent or more), then in much smaller proportions a few Utah and California plates. An occasional Oregon and Washington, Montana and Alberta plate. The most distant I can remember was Connecticut and North Carolina.
We also made a stop at the Museum of Idaho. Inside we found a fairly bustling scene. Hard to tell if the busy-ness was due to the Duck Race being held in downtown Idaho Falls, or if it was eclipse chasers. At any rate, it was nice to see lots of learning/exploring going on. There were a couple of seminars going on, and the rooms were packed. More educational presentations are planned at the Colonial Theater in downtown Idaho Falls this weekend, and they are anticipated to be well-attended. The Museum was surrounded by television trucks and other media, much of it was local and out of Utah. We did not see any national trucks — CNN, FoxNews, NBC, etc.
We did meet some interesting people… one gentleman from Los Angeles was pulling an Airstream trailer with two very photogenic dogs. He was headed to Ririe, which he pronounced ry-REE. I didn’t correct his pronunciation.
Another group was here from Arizona/Utah and they were headed to Terreton to maximize their viewing chances. They tried putting a pair of eclipse glasses on their beautiful golden labrador for the picture we wanted to take, but the dog was having none of it.
We also stopped at one of the city’s designated camping areas, talked to an IF Parks and Rec worker (who
was sporting an impressive mullet) and he talked about how quiet the day has been, despite a sold out camp area.
IN CONCLUSION — If there’s a consensus, it would be “Where is everybody?” It’s turned out… SO FAR… to be a lot less than anticipated. Less people, less activity, and all of it absent the drama and hysteria we were expecting. Again… so far. Sunday and Monday morning will be interesting.
We were prepared to give continuous coverage — even wall-to-wall if necessary. We have a plan for that. But as we were broadcasting our long-form eclipse coverage this morning, there just didn’t seem to be that much to report. Traffic is moving. People aren’t dying. Fires aren’t burning.
At least not so far… but Sunday and Monday are still to come.
And two final things… 1) We’d love your comments below about the eclipse weekend thus far, plus your expectations still to come. And 2) Make sure to check out our eclilpse photo gallery at: http://bit.ly/2fUEDC1
We’ll check in with you again tomorrow…
Text in your eclipse pics/questions/comments/observations to 208.522.5900
Steven Kates, professionally known as Dr. Sky on Coast-to-Coast AM, has been involved in astronomy for over 30 years. He is seen on a regular basis on 3TV’s “Good Morning Arizona” and Fox 10′s “Arizona […]