April 8 presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Wayne County will be in the middle of a total solar eclipse’s path of totality.

It’s an event to enjoy as the moon moves between Earth and the sun, with the moon’s shadow casting the county into darkness for up to 4 minutes, depending on location. Preparation and attention to safety will ensure that enjoyment for residents and the tens of thousands of visitors expected.

Because of those visitors, who will arrive throughout the weekend before the Monday eclipse, Matthew Cain, director of the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency, recommends residents stock up on essentials before their arrival. Plan to acquire prescriptions, groceries and fuel before visitors increase demand and flood roadways.

After-action reports from previous total eclipses have shown stores running out of water and shelves empty of staple foods. Fuel supplies have also dwindled under increased demand, and inevitably, vehicles run out of fuel during long traffic delays on eclipse day.

It’s also important to have proper protective eyewear and weather-appropriate clothing. Eclipse glasses or viewers are essential to prevent retina damage in the eyes. Proper glasses, viewers and filters for optical devices such as phones, cameras, binoculars and telescopes are available at the Old National Road Welcome Center, 5701 National Road E., Richmond.

If you’re watching the eclipse, then you’re being exposed to the sun’s rays before, during and after the nearly 2 1/2-hour eclipse, so proper sun protection is necessary.

Cain noted that weather conditions could be 25 or 75 degrees, and anyone watching the eclipse should dress appropriately for spending time outdoors. Those traveling to a viewing site should also be ready to spend time in their vehicle under those weather conditions. Also prepare with water, snacks and device chargers. Do not call 911 or the county dispatch center for traffic information; instead, find the Indiana Department of Transportation’s interactive maps at 511in.org.

Remain weather aware to threatening weather should it occur. EMA will send weather alerts through the Nixle system. Sign up for free by texting the zip code to 888777 or online at https://local.nixle.com/wayne-county-emergency-management-agency

With so many visitors, cellphone and internet use will increase, possibly reducing cell signal and bandwidth in areas where people congregate. Be prepared for difficulty making or receiving cellphone calls. Cain recommends that families and other groups come up with a communication plan without cellphones. They also should establish a reunification point, because it might not be possible to make a quick call.

Officials hope residents and visitors all will take advantage of the eclipse and the events and activities scheduled throughout the weekend and eclipse day. Planning, precautions and patience should make the time enjoyable.

Complete information about the eclipse, viewing locations and related activities is available online at WayneCountySolarEclipse.com and at the Welcome Center. An eclipse hot line provides information by calling 765-935-8687 and asking about the eclipse.

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A version of this article appeared in the March 27 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.