Agencies Work Together to Support Local Communities
Lincoln, NEB. —The State Emergency Operations Center will be open to monitor activity across the state as visitors travel here to view the total solar eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21. Many communities in the path of totality across the state have planned events and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has requested that all state agencies work together to support local communities during this exciting event.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts is excited to welcome visitors from around the globe to the Good Life to witness the rare phenomenon as it crosses Nebraska.
“Nebraska’s wide open spaces offer great viewing locations,” Gov. Ricketts said. “This will be a very cool experience that we hope many Nebraskans and visitors from across the country and around the world will enjoy. The safety and well-being of Nebraskans and visitors is our number one priority. We are asking everyone to be alert and to plan ahead. Whether you’re traveling to work or making plans to view the eclipse, plan for potential congested traffic and extended travel times.”
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency
NEMA is coordinating with other state agencies to prepare for the influx of visitors to the state. The agency has reached out to local emergency management officials for information on activities and community needs for the day of the event. NEMA staff will work in the State Emergency Operations Center on Aug. 19-21 should a need for state support be requested.
For information and links to state agency and federal websites with eclipse information visit: https://nema.nebraska.gov/operations/2017-solar-eclipse.
Nebraska Tourism Commission
August 21 will likely be the biggest tourism event that Nebraska has ever seen and maybe will ever see. According to GreatAmericanEclipse.com, anywhere between about 120,000 and 450,000 people will travel to the state for the event.
Nebraska’s tourism industry has been preparing for this event for almost two years. Many hotels and campgrounds across the state are booked…and reservations at hotels near the path of totality are experiencing sell-out situations. Nebraska Tourism’s Executive Director John Ricks said, “The Nebraska Tourism Commission has promoted the eclipse in its advertising over the past year and our marketing grant programs have enabled communities across Nebraska to promote their own flavor of eclipse experience. Nebraska’s tourism industry will do everything possible to make Mother Nature’s Cosmic Spectacular a memorable experience for all of our visitors.”
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
Nebraskans planning to view the eclipse are encouraged to make sure the eclipse glasses they’re using are legitimate ones. DHHS is sharing information from credible sources like NASA on the DHHS website on safe eclipse viewing, which includes tips on how to tell if you have the safe eye protection needed – http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/2017Eclipse.aspx. Besides eye safety, there is additional safety tips on the DHHS website as well as many Nebraska-specific and other national eclipse resources and social media.
Nebraska Department of Transportation
The Nebraska Department of Transportation continues preparation for the expected number of visitors to Nebraska for the Great American Solar Eclipse. As part of these preparations, oversized and overweight semi loads will be restricted beginning at sunset on August 18 to sunrise August 22. NDOT staff will be prepared and ready to respond should the need arise on the day of the eclipse. Additionally, NDOT is working closing with the other agencies and will be available on-site with NEMA as well as staffing the NDOT State Operations Center, which monitors traffic on State Highways and Interstates.
Those looking for the most current traffic information should visit www.511.nebraska.gov or download the app Nebraska 511. You can also follow @nebraska511 on Twitter for information on closures. Information and travel tips can also be found at http://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/eclipse/.
For more information about eclipse events going on statewide go to https://visitnebraska.com/.
Nebraska State Fire Marshal Agency
The State Fire Marshal Agency continues to prepare for the events surrounding and on the day of the Great American Eclipse. SFM staff will be prepared to support and assist local fire departments and first-responders’ response efforts if the need arises. It is important that all participants pay attention to their surroundings and know their locations in case an emergency arises. If in less populated areas, it is important that callers can provide at least two crossing county roads to dispatch centers if calling to request emergency services.
SFM staff are working closely with other agencies and will be on-site at the State Operations Center on the day of the event.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Nebraska Game and Parks has 34 state park areas and 186 wildlife management areas within the eclipse’s path of totality. Visitation at those areas is expected to be busier than normal. All campsites within those park areas that may be reserved have been booked for months. Many parks are preparing additional areas for primitive camping and parking during the eclipse. Visitors should be aware of fire safety hazards such as campfires and parking on grassy areas. A park entry permit is required of each vehicle entering a state park area. Purchase these permits in advance to avoid lines at the park.
Nearly two dozen eclipse-related events are planned at state park areas. Visit outdoornebraska.gov/eclipse/ for a list of events, as well as an interactive map of state park areas within the path.
Nebraska Military Department
The Nebraska National Guard has placed units in an elevated level of readiness as Monday’s total eclipse approaches. These units are trained and equipped to provide assistance in a number of different missions should local or state emergency response officials require additional capabilities. This includes a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crew that will be positioned in North Platte on Monday, Aug. 21, with a Bambi Bucket to provide fire suppression support if necessary.
Additionally, members of the Nebraska National Guard public affairs office are providing assistance to the Nebraska Joint Information Center located at the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency in Lincoln.
Nebraska State Patrol
The Nebraska State Patrol continues to prepare for a large of influx of drivers from outside of Nebraska. NSP is planning extensive operations to assist traffic flow on the days before, day of, and days after the eclipse. Extra troopers will be on the road thanks to a grant from the Nebraska Department of Transportation Highway Safety Office (NDOT-HSO). NSP’s Aviation Support Division will have three aircraft in the air on eclipse day to assist local law enforcement in all parts of the state. NSP is also partnering with local communities, the SEOC, and other stakeholders to address public safety needs.
Drivers will not be allowed to park on the shoulders of the interstate or highways. NSP’s main objective is to keep Nebraska roads safe around this event and we request the public’s help in that effort through compliance with traffic safety laws, wearing seat belts, and avoiding impaired-driving. We urge people to plan ahead so you know where you want to be for the eclipse, plan for extra travel time to get there, and take advantage of the great sites set up by Nebraska Game and Parks and our local communities listed at the Nebraska Tourism website.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross is continuing to prepare for appropriate response should the need arise during the eclipse. Volunteers across the state have been asked to be ready to respond. Red Cross safety tips have been released to media outlets across Nebraska and Kansas.
Additional News of Note
According to an article titled “2017 Solar Eclipse & Nebraska Agri-tourism Liability” written by Dave Aiken with the Nebraska Extension, Nebraska property owners can be held liable for damage caused by campers on their property, with some exceptions. For examples, for those Nebraska property owners who have campers on their property who do not have permission to be there, there may be some legal protections, although they aren’t guaranteed. However, if the campers do have permission and are charged a fee, property owners can be held liable for injury among other items. Even if campers aren’t charged a fee, property owners can still be held liable.
One common way to limit liability is to have the campers sign a liability waiver. Additionally, property owners can post specific agri-tourism liability signs around the property and include the same language in contracts and/or camping leases. For more information, please consult the 2015 Nebraska Agri-tourism legal requirements for more information. Property owners are also encouraged to go to the following website for more information: http://news.unl.edu/newsrooms/today/article/great-plains-ecotourism-initiative-produces-liability-study/