Solar eclipse to bring unprecedented crowds

by | Apr 2, 2024

Western New Brunswick residents urged to prepare

By Sandra Hanson and Theresa Blackburn, with files from Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The April 8 total solar eclipse will not just be a once-in-a-lifetime event due to its rare occurrence but also because it is expected to bring unprecedented crowds to western New Brunswick.

District of Carleton North Tourism Manager Sharon Johnston says the region needs to brace for a huge influx of eclipse watchers. 

“We know that Woodstock is planning for an additional 10,000 people. We haven’t put an exact number on it, but we are planning for thousands.” 

Where to watch

Florenceville-Bristol is on the eclipse’s centre line, while Woodstock, Hartland, Perth-Andover, and Nackawic-Millville are just north and south of that but still in the path of totality. As long as the skies are clear, the viewing differences in the different locations will be virtually unnoticeable. 

In the event of cloud cover during the celestial event, a broadcast of the eclipse will be the next-best option.

“Before the event, we will be having a live stream of the ballon solar eclipse project,” said Johnson. 

The balloon eclipse project involves raising a weather balloon over the clouds and transmitting the video of the eclipse back to the ground.

The video stream will be broadcast for viewing at the following locations: 

  • Florenceville-Bristol, NB:
    • The Northern Carleton Civic Centre, 40 McCain Street
    • Potato World, 385 Centreville Road
  • Woodstock, NB:
    • McCain Theatre at Woodstock High School, 144 Connell Park Road
  • Hartland, NB:
    • Hartland Community Centre, Cafetorium, 217 Rockland Road
  • Perth-Andover, NB:
    • River Valley Civic Centre, 11 School Street
  • Plaster Rock, NB:
    • Tobique-Plex, 159 Main Street
  • Grand Falls, NB:
    • John Caldwell School, 130 Victoria Street

The eclipse will also be live-streamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@EclipseUpClose.

All schools in the region are either closing for the day or dismissing students at noon on April 8. The week before the eclipse, Science East is coming to Woodstock High School with a travelling planetarium. 

Events are being planned in nearly every community. For a complete rundown of eclipse happenings where you are, visit www.eclipsenb2024.ca.

Expect traffic delays

Municipal councils are urging residents to prepare for long traffic delays on eclipse day and, if possible, to avoid driving into downtown areas.

With the expected traffic, the District of Carleton North will provide a shuttle service for people attending the Chris Hadfield/James Mullinger event at the Northern Carleton Civic Centre to help reduce traffic. Nearly one thousand tickets have been sold, and less than 10 VIP tickets are still available.

Johnson said people should carpool and walk if they can.

Expect communication disruptions 

A command centre will be set up in Florenceville-Bristol, where the local fire departments, RCMP, EMO, DTI, and communications will operate. The fire department will assist with parking and, if necessary, traffic control. The RCMP is providing a helicopter patrol for the area. She noted that the RCMP and Brunway will also patrol the highways. 

“We will also be communicating with Woodstock regarding any necessary mutual aid,” said Johnston.

In a handout provided to the municipality of Woodstock residents, the town warns about possible communication problems during the eclipse.

“EMO has advised that we should expect telecommunications interruptions due to capacity limits. Loss of internet and cellular services during peak hours of the eclipse should be expected and planned for,” the mailout reads.

Businesses may be short on supplies

Some businesses in the Saint John River Valley region will have extended hours or could be closed. 

Johnston urged residents to please consider stocking up on supplies such as food and gas, as there is a real potential for shortages due to the unprecedented tourism traffic. 

“We’ve communicated with the local businesses and left it in their hands to prepare for staffing and supplies. The onus is on the businesses to see the potential for shortage scenarios,” said Johnston. She did acknowledge that it is tough to plan for an event like this, given the many variables and unknowns.

Viewing the eclipse safely

People are being reminded that looking directly at the eclipse, even briefly, is extremely dangerous to their eyes. The sun’s light can cause severe, permanent damage to their retinas, which may not immediately be noticed because they lack nerve sensors. 

A limited number of glasses will be available at each viewing location. People are being asked to pick up their free glasses at the designated places in their community.

For road conditions, click the map

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