Idaho's Wood River Valley Braces For Flood Of Eclipse-Watchers

Aug 15, 2017

According to the mayor of Ketchum, the small Wood River Valley town is planning to accommodate roughly 80,000 people for the August 21 solar eclipse.
Credit Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The eclipse is now less than a week away. As anticipation builds for this once-in-a-lifetime solar spectacle, logistical realities are setting in. Communities in the path of totality are expecting to be swarmed and are preparing for hordes of people.

For those in the path of totality for Monday’s solar eclipse, day will become night. The temperature will drop, the sun’s translucent atmosphere will be visible and even the stars will come out for those few moments.

In Ketchum, totality is expected to last a little over a minute. The city’s mayor, Nina Jonas, says despite the brevity of the event, the town of around 2,700 is expecting a flood of humanity the day of the eclipse.

“It seems beyond my comprehension that we’re going to have 80,000 people descend on our community for an hour to celebrate a minute and fifteen seconds, but that’s effectively what we’re planning for,” says Jonas.

At a meeting last week in Ketchum’s public library, officials told residents to expect Highway 75 to be at a standstill in the final run-up to the eclipse and immediately after. The Forest Service will have people on hand ready to battle wildfires should one start, while thousands of visitors camp and hike in the Sawtooth Mountains for the event.

According to Jonas, emergency and medical personnel in town will be working the day of the eclipse as well.

“They’ve had blackout dates for taking vacation dates at the hospital, and within the police force,” she says. “We’re bringing in extra helicopters for fear that we’d have to utilize them for just general accidents instead of just life-threatening accidents because of the traffic – we won’t be able to get people to the hospital.”

The mayor says despite the numerous things that could go wrong, she’s excited and grateful for a chance to show off Ketchum to thousands of sky-watching tourists.

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