‘Plan for the expected and be ready for the unexpected’

by | Apr 6, 2024

Woodstock deputy police chief urges residents, visitors to be prepared and patient on Solar Eclipse day

Numerous plans are in place to handle high traffic volumes and unusual circumstances associated with a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event on Monday, April 8. Woodstock Deputy Chief Mark Bennett said everyone must play a role during the sun’s total eclipse.

“Essentially, people need to be prepared and patient,” said Bennett, who has led the eclipse preparedness group encompassing several organizations over the last several months.

With thousands of visitors expected to pour into Woodstock and other Upper River Valley communities to witness the eclipse from one of the best seats in the world, the deputy chief said the group outlined plans aimed primarily at safety.

 “We have to plan for the expected and be ready for the unexpected,” he said.

Bennett said the uniqueness of a total eclipse will introduce circumstances “we haven’t seen before.”

Still, he said, the group prepared for as many as 10,000 visitors to roll into the town on Monday.

Bennett said the town would adjust streets and parking lots on Monday to accommodate the massive traffic flow to Woodstock’s three viewing sites and other events.

“We need to close roads to ensure the safety of pedestrians, drivers and visitors,” he said.

The viewing centres are at the AYR Motor Centre, downtown Woodstock, near the farm market and the Meduxnekeag Consolidated School.

Residents can find a complete list of traffic adjustments, including street closures, online at the Woodstock Police and Town websites and social media pages.

Bennett recommends that anyone planning to watch the eclipse from a viewing site, which will be open from 2 to 6 p.m., get there early and prepare for a slow exit.

“Expect traffic delays,” he said.

Bennett said the Woodstock Police Force will include several extra officers on shift, with Public Safety and the Sheriff’s Office providing additional support.

He said WPF is coordinating closely with the RCMP. Brunway is making adjustments to handle highway traffic. Bennett said Carleton Ground Search and Rescue will oversee command centres at the downtown and AYR Motor Centre, with police officers available.

While a total eclipse happens once a century, the realities of life happen daily. Bennett said police, fire and ambulance services must be ready and able to respond to emergencies at any time.

He noted, as an example, a situation which closed the Trans Canada Highway Bridge. In such a scenario, he explained, would force traffic to detour through the town.

“The plan is very dynamic and fluid,” he said.

Bennett expects the traffic congestion to last long after the sun and moon part ways. He explained that Woodstock, the Upper River Valley’s largest community, offers most of the resources and amenities visitors seek.

“After the eclipse, we’ll have a large number of people coming to town,” he said.

Bennett said that in addition to the vast increase in traffic, the total eclipse will affect nature in several ways, including the reaction of wildlife. He said motorists must be wary of deer, moose and other animals on highways and roads.

For those looking to watch the spectacle in the sky, Bennett urges them to get a control viewing area early and plan to remain a long time or watch it from home, using the proper eye protection.  

Bennett also recommends staying off the roads during the eclipse.

The deputy chief said Woodstock welcomes the vast influx of visitors to the community and hopes they leave with a great impression. He offers straightforward advice to make that happen — “be patient and be respectful.”

For road conditions, click the map

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