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Baxter Health released its official Eclipse After Action Report following its Tabletop Drill for Arkansas’s upcoming 2024 solar eclipse earlier this year in October.
The drill saw local leadership begin planning for the massive influx of tourists expected to descend on Baxter, Marion, and Fulton County over the course of 4-5 days in the lead-up to the eclipse, as well as the potential strain on each county’s respective resources and infrastructure.
In attendance were representatives from the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Game and Fish, Arkansas State Police, Air Evac Lifeteam, Baxter County Judge Kevin Litty, Baxter County Sheriff’s Office, Black Hills Energy, Bull Shoals Chamber of Commerce, City of Mountain Home, City of Briarcliff, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cotter Fire Department, Entergy, Flippin’s Mayor’s Office, Marion County OEM, Mountain Home Police and Fire Departments, NAEC, NATCO, Ozark Dynamics, Yelcot, various school districts and media outlets, and many more.
Next year’s eclipse will mark the United States’s third eclipse in the 21st century, with no other eclipse occurring in the U.S. again until 2044. Unlike last week’s partial eclipse, Mountain Home and Baxter County will be under total darkness next April for over three minutes due to being in the path of full totality.
State officials expect over 2 million eclipse viewers to descend on Arkansas, as the state has some of the least amount of light pollution along the eclipse path, allowing tourists and residents to experience total darkness in rural areas of the state.
Baxter County officials are expecting the county’s population to surge anywhere between 150,000 to 250,000 people in the weekend leading up to the eclipse.
After a brief presentation over the eclipse itself, Baxter Health officials began running a series of injects, or questions, to each table in the crowd to help focus on what challenges first responders and leadership were expecting to face over the course of the entire eclipse.
Following the injects, Baxter County Justice of the Peace Dirk Waldrop discussed his experience in viewing the 2017 eclipse in Jefferson City, Missouri. During his presentation, Waldrop said things went relatively smoothly in the lead-up to the eclipse, before falling apart after tourists rushed to get home.
Waldrop said traffic was at a standstill for several hours, leading to frustration and fighting alongside the road. He also noted that several gas stations and businesses began price-gouging tourists as they attempted to go home.
After Waldrop’s presentation, Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce President Dani Pugsley updated members of the exercise on what events would be occurring in Mountain Home and surrounding areas. A website featuring an extensive list can be found here.
In Mountain Home, residents will be able to attend a concert at ASUMH over the eclipse weekend, as well as a festival in downtown Mountain Home and Hickory Park.
The Chamber has ordered 20,000 pairs of eclipse glasses for those who do not have a pair yet. They can be found at the Chamber’s main building in Mountain Home. T-shirts for the eclipse are also available.
The full after-action report can be found below.