County officials: Start planning now for April 8 eclipse

(Lake Placid News graphic)

SARANAC LAKE — Franklin County Public Health officials are suggesting locals start preparing this week for the April 8 total solar eclipse, which is expected to bring thousands of people to the area.

Franklin County Public Health Program Coordinator Sarah Granquist said they’re telling people to treat this like a “severe weather event” — but instead of snow on the road, it’ll be cars.

They’re recommending people stock up a bit in the coming week because stores will likely be packed full and potentially hitting shortages starting next weekend. Don’t stockpile for weeks, Granquist said, but make sure to have three to four extra days of essentials like food, water, medications or gasoline.

“We don’t want to create a panic,” she said. “We want people to be aware.”

It might not be necessary, but it will be one less concern.

The eclipse is an awe-inspiring natural event, Granquist said, and they want to be able to enjoy it without having to worry about anything.


Granquist said it is hard to imagine how many people will be here.

At an eclipse planning meeting hosted by Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism on Thursday, ROOST Chief Operating Officer MJ Lawrence said all hotels and short-term vacation rentals around here are seeing high occupancy between April 5 and 9 currently. She added that the total of “day-trippers” who travel here but don’t have a room to stay the night at is unclear.

In Saranac Lake, Granquist said they are anticipating more visitors than during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, the town’s main tourist draw in the winter. Regional airports are reporting increased flights on Monday as well.

“Roadways are expected to be congested,” Granquist said in a statement, primarily before and after the eclipse itself.

During the 2017 eclipse, out west, ROOST Marketing Director Michelle Clement said traffic was delayed for eight to 10 hours. They’re not sure if that will happen here, but they’re telling people to pack their cars with essentials, in case traffic is at a standstill for hours.

Essex County Public Health suggests avoiding any non-essential travel on the day of the eclipse and not scheduling any appointments that day.


Public officials have also been warning that cellphones may not be able to place calls as they normally do because there will be many more people using them.

“Do not expect to be able to use your cellphone,” Granquist said in a statement.

But Verizon Communications Manager Chris Serico said that the Tri-Lakes’ main cellphone provider does not expect any decrease in service due to the extra load.

“We’re confident that the additional capacity that we’ve layered into the network over the last few years will accommodate any increases in data usage,” Serico said.

A large reason for the increase is the expansion of the 5G ultrawideband network.

“We have a lot more (5G) coverage now than we did in 2017,” Serico said, adding that newer phones can handle these networks better.

But the Adirondack Park is a uniquely tough place to get cell service. Most major roads between towns have dead zones ranging from a drop-spot to a long stretch.

Even in certain areas of town, cell service in homes is wonky. And during large events here, like the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival last month, the increased load of users strains an already insufficient system.

Around the Carnival parade and fireworks shows, many people reported difficulty making calls or sending texts from the center of town.

Granquist suggested having a “backup communication plan.” Home internet and landlines should not be impacted by the higher use.

Or people should plan to do things the old-fashioned way.

“I grew up and I didn’t have a cellphone,” Clement said she told her kids. “We had what was called a ‘meeting location.'”

That’s a spot and a time where everyone can meet if they get separated.

The 911 emergency dispatch uses its own bandwidth, so calls to that number should not be impacted, even if others are.

“Planning ahead will help us all feel more prepared and able to enjoy this once in a lifetime natural event,” Granquist said in a statement.


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