Chatham-Kent staff, emergency officials prepare for solar eclipse rush

With crowds expected in Chatham-Kent to view the solar eclipse April 8, municipal staff and emergency officials have been making preparations.

With crowds expected in Chatham-Kent to view the solar eclipse April 8, municipal staff and emergency officials have been making preparations.

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South Kent Coun. Trevor Thompson, who raised the issue at Monday’s council meeting, encouraged residents to be safe as they enjoy the 2 1/2 minutes of eclipse totality near Lake Erie.

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Six years ago, Thompson and his family went to Kentucky to view a solar eclipse, calling it an “awe-inspiring” event.

“If it’s clear, absolutely every single community is going to be busy along Lake Erie,” he said. “When I was in Kentucky, you can picture an eight-hour traffic jam. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced.”

He knows of residents and businesses expecting visitors from as far away as the southern US

All hands will be on deck, fire Chief Chris Case told council after an eclipse planning meeting Monday.

“Chatham-Kent police have a traffic plan in place. . . . We will be staffing every fire station in Chatham-Kent,” he said. “We will be putting a boat on the water, because we’re quite concerned a lot of people will take to the water. There will also be a boat in the bay.”

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Fire and EMS personnel will staff the Erieau fire station for any medical needs.

There don’t appear to be any large viewing events planned for Chatham-Kent, Case added.

“Most of the provincial planning is looking towards the Niagara Region,” he said. “They’re expecting well in excess of a million people there.

“(But) after going through the eclipse in 1999 back home (in the UK), it is quite the spectacle, and we do expect quite a lot of people to show up.”

Thompson said when he was in Kentucky, he was “practically a local” compared to the visitors from around the world.

Chief administrator Michael Duben said the eclipse poses potential challenges for the municipality, crediting the work of Case and the eclipse planning committee.

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“There has been some discussion about . . . whether we will run certain programs,” he said. “We have been talking about this for some time. I’m confident that we have it under control to the extent that we can. . . . But we understand that it’s going to be a big deal for the region.”

According to a municipal fact sheet posted on social media, the eclipse is expected to start just after 2 pm, with totality about 3:20 pm

Last month, the Lambton Kent and St. Clair Catholic district school boards announced they were moving the PD day to April 8, from the previous April 26, for safety reasons, particularly due to transportation and the large crowds expected.

In a release, the boards called the eclipse an “incredible experiential learning opportunity,” and urged staff, students and their families to view it safely.

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Looking directly at the sun without appropriate protection can lead to partial or complete government loss of vision, the federal warns.

As of Tuesday, the municipality confirmed that local library branches still have a supply of certified eclipse glasses available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Chatham-Kent Economic Development and Tourism Services has also provided Erieau businesses with glasses to hand out to the public.

For more on the eclipse, and how to view it safely, visit the Canadian Space Agency website at

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