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Local governments preparing for solar eclipse as if it were a natural disaster

Solar eclipse
(Photo: MGN)

With the solar eclipse just weeks away, cities along the event's path are preparing as if bracing to face a natural disaster.

Some are declaring "local disasters." Others are sidelining government employees to tackle eclipse-related projects. Still more continue to search for wiggle room in their budgets; anticipating the need to make repairs, finance inflated first-response teams and clear leftover debris.

With as many as 7.4 million Americans expected to visit the eclipse's so-called "path of totality," local governments (many in rural areas, which typically receive minimal traffic) have no doubt their towns will bear some financial burden.

This will likely be offset in part, however, by the commercial benefits that accompany an influx of visitors; many retailers are even offering special deals to consumers the day of the event.

Here's a look at the financial toll (and gain) some local municipalities across the country predict, and how their officials are fighting to ensure their governments are prepared.

IDAHO

In Idaho, Payette County declared a "local disaster emergency," KBOI reported.

With as many as 100,000 people expected, the county says the declaration has been issued due to the risk of "public safety, financial damage, labor costs, and the cost of cleanup and property damage."

“The disaster declaration is a step that can be taken in anticipation of a disaster," said Payette County Emergency Manager Lt. Andy Creech in a press release. "This step is a precautionary measure that activates response plans in preparation for the event.”

NORTH CAROLINA

In North Carolina. the state's Department of Transportation is devoting the bulk of their workforce August 21 to facilitating eclipse traffic, Sinclair's WLOS reports.

Construction projects across 17 counties will be paused. Construction crews will be reassigned to directing traffic. And 42 signs will be re-purposed for eclipse messages.

Though the exact amount is difficult to quantify, there's no doubt these activities will detract significantly from the state's budget.

NEBRASKA

In Nebraska, the state's Emergency Management Agency has taken on the responsibility of spearheading the area's preparations, Sinclair's KHGI reports.

“In emergency management, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Nebraska Emergency Management Agency Operations Manager Earl Imler. “By considering challenges that could arise with the influx of the predicted 100,000 to 400,000 visitors to the state, we have developed plans for helping local jurisdictions in the path of totality should any of those incidents occur.”

KENTUCKY

In Kentucky's rural Christian County, preparations for the influx of visitors include bolstering emergency services, upgrades to the local airport and even the stationing of some National Guard troops.

Raking in the cash for local entities are a music festival, bourbon tasting, and multitude of hotel bookings -- most establishments are completely full.

All in all, the eclipse is estimated to have a $300 million impact on the area, the AP reported.

SOUTH CAROLINA

In South Carolina, state agencies held a special meeting to outline how the groups would prepare for the eclipse, Sinclair's WPDE reports.

Officials are planning to accommodate as many as 2 million people in the state on the day of, August 21.

The state's highway patrol has told WPDE they anticipate planning for the event as if it were "a major holiday," WPDE reports.

OREGON

In Oregon, Benton County expects to welcome about 400,000 people, Sinclair's KMTR reports.

Emergency services are adding six extra lines to their dispatch coverage, to ensure they will be able to respond to all emergencies that may happen.

Elsewhere in the state, the city of Medford's regional Red Cross has even lumped preparations for the eclipse together with preparations for a major upcoming earthquake, Sinclair's KTVL reports.

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