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Eclipse preparation tips from Vermont Emergency Management

Hand holding eclipse glasses with crescent of the eclipsed sun visible through the right lens
Vermont officials are urging people to make their eclipse viewing plans as soon as possible.

About 160,000 people are expected to travel to Vermont for the total solar eclipse on April 8, according to the latest estimates from the state. That's a big influx of people for this brave little state.

Eric Forand, director of Vermont Emergency Management, and Jayna Morse, commander of the Agency of Transportation's incident command center for the eclipse, offered guidance to Vermonters on how to safely view the upcoming eclipse. Keegan Tierney, director of field programs for the Green Mountain Club, also weighed in on outdoor and state park safety.

First step: have a plan.

Forand said they're urging people to make their eclipse viewing plans as soon as possible. Still, he knows there will be some people who wait to decide on their plans until the day of the eclipse.

"That's the segment of the visitors that we're worried about," he said. "Those individuals that have planned their events, have their hotel rooms, know where they're going, know how they're going to get there and know how they're gonna get home, we're not as worried about those. [It's] the individuals that wake up Monday morning and decide to come to Vermont."

Forand added that the weather is still unknown. "As we all know, Vermont's weather could be sunny, rainy, snowy, muddy, all of the above," he said.

Give yourself plenty of time.

Maybe on a normal day, it doesn't take very long to get to a friend's house, but on the day of the eclipse, be sure to factor in that it could take much longer.

"It's going to be difficult to predict today what we might see for traffic," Morse said. She added that will provide the most up-to-date information on the status of state roads across New England.

"You can see any delays or incidents that might be occurring on the roads," she said.

When it comes to local or municipal roads, Forand said to use the directional app Waze.

"That's where we're encouraging local municipalities to update their information on, but it's also self-directed by actual travelers, so it has pretty up-to-date information," he said.

Stay out of the backcountry

The Green Mountain Club is encouraging people to stay off the backcountry trails. One big reason: mud, mud, mud.

"Regardless of whether it's mud season on the roads or not, it's going to be mud season in the backcountry," Tierney said. "It's a time of year that we typically ask folks to stay off the trails anyway, for protection of the trail tread and the resources around it."

Tierney said there will also be limited access to emergency resources.

"If somebody was to get hurt in the backcountry, it's always a longer evac[uation]. But if emergency response planners are going to be busy with front country incidents or traffic, that time could be expanded and exacerbated even more during the eclipse," he said.

While the state parks aren't open for the season yet, Tierney said some parks at lower elevations will be open with limited resources, including Mt. Philo, Grand Isle, and Knight Point, with a full list on the state website.

Keep gas tanks full

While it might be easy to ignore a dipping gas tank, err on the side of caution.

"Don't wait as long as you may on a normal day," Forand said. "Say it gets down to a quarter of a tank, start looking for stations sooner rather than later. Vermont obviously doesn't have a lot of exits, so you don't want to get caught out on the highway without fuel."

Forand and his employees have coordinated with local fuel dealers to make sure gas stations near the highway are taking deliveries before the day of the eclipse.

911 calls will get through

Vermont Emergency Management has been in contact with cell service providers since early last year to get ready for the influx of cell users.

While there might be slowdowns to cell service as people try to stream the eclipse or call friends and family during totality, Forand says he's confident the state's cell towers can handle the increased traffic. In particular, emergency 911 calls will receive top priority.

"We did verify with the cell phone providers that 911 access gets preemptive service," Forand said. "Regardless of your service provider, if you call 911, you jump to the front of the queue, and your 911 call goes through first."

Broadcast live on Monday, March 25, 2024, at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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More eclipse resources

See all of Vermont Public's 2024 eclipse coverage.

Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.