The total solar eclipse seekers who emergency planners were expecting showed up Monday after a quiet weekend.

And, they said, things turned out to be less of a challenge than anticipated.

“There was a big rush of traffic in the morning towards the center line,” Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs said. “Between 5:30 and 8 a.m. was really busy.”

Traffic was flowing from Jackson and Yellowstone, meeting in the middle to witness totality.

“What we’re seeing is kind of what we thought would happen,” Ochs said. “Once Grand Teton opened up the Kelly Road at 6 a.m., traffic started moving. The planning for that worked incredibly well. Without that I really don’t know what we would have done.”

According to Wyoming Department of Transportation traffic counters, Teton County saw 10,410 more vehicles than average on Wednesday, 12,157 on Thursday, 13,558 on Friday, 17,755 on Saturday and 33,087 on Sunday.

“It was a lot of volume and put a lot of stresses on our system, but we were well prepared,” said Doug McGee, WYDOT public affairs manager. “While traffic is moving slowly, we haven’t had any major incidents.”

When the eclipse started at 10:16 a.m. and totality approached, everything fell quiet. It was so still that emergency dispatchers who were handling 911 calls were able to step outside to watch the moon cover the sun, darkening the valley.

“The call volume just stopped,” Ochs said. “It was just silent. Everybody was watching a pretty amazing event all at the same time. Luckily no one had any medical issues in the middle of it.”

Ochs, who began planning for the eclipse two years ago from a public safety standpoint, was happy with the outcome.

“It’s just a relief that it’s over,” he said. “It seems we achieved what we planned, to keep it safe and fun.”

Grand Teton National Park officials, expecting record visitor numbers, said they felt they met their eclipse goals.

“I think it went beyond expectations,” said Denise Germann, park public affairs officer.

Park objectives, Germann said, were protecting safety, preventing damage to natural resources and providing accurate information to tourists. Those were all met, she said.

Superintendent David Vela was pleased.

“This is the culmination of a really good collaboration,” Vela said as the moon began to cover the sun.

Visitor numbers weren’t known at press time but will be released this week. Staff said it felt like any August day.

“It was a busy summer day in the park, but nothing more than that,” Germann said.

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066, courts@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcourts.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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(1) comment

Cathy Greek

Well done and congratulations to all!

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