Mon April 01, 2024

By Jeff Smithpeters

Eclipse event planner for UAHT warns residents to prepare for potential disruptions around April 8th
Above: John Gladden, Hempstead Hall Director and a planner of UAHT's eclipse events spoke about potential difficulties that may arise in our area in the days surrounding the April 8th eclipse. 

Local residents should prepare for the period before, during and after the total eclipse to occur April 8th, just a week from today, as if it were an incoming ice storm, said one of UAHT’s eclipse event planners Monday at the Lions Club meeting. 

John Gladden, Hempstead Hall Director and a planner of UAHT’s eclipse event spoke from information he had received from the Arkansas Department of Transportation, the Arkansas Office of Emergency Management, NASA, the San Francisco Exploratorium and a study of after-action reports from states that weathered the area of totality for the 2017 eclipse. Among the things he said locals should be alert to: 

·       Potential shortages of fuel for vehicles. “Watch out for your gasoline reserves,” Gladden said. “If your tank is empty now, fix that. Go ahead and tank up on gas. If you have jerry cans or gas cans at home, fill those, because this event is not going to end two o'clock on Monday afternoon. We're going to have people that are driving through our area who are stopping in our area and especially the ones coming from South are going back that direction. So all of our gas stations are going to be hit pretty heavy, especially at two to three p.m. on Monday afternoon when we have a mass exodus from this location … Go ahead and stock up on that, either Wednesday or Thursday this week. Don't wait any later than that, because we expect that traffic will begin to increase on Friday afternoon as people get off from work.” 

·       A shortage in resupplies for grocery stores. “We are looking at supply issues, particularly because of traffic increases and the inability of certain supply trucks to get to critical areas. Think about when COVID first hit and nobody had toilet paper. Right? Prepare for that. Get at least two weeks of shelf stable food. We're not talking about milk, bread and eggs. That stuff spoils. We're talking about canned goods, stuff that you could live on,” Gladden said. 

·       Prescriptions may become more difficult to fill in the days immediately prior to and after the eclipse. “If you have prescriptions that need to be filled, please do so ahead of time, because one of the major impacts of this of the supply chain issue is going to be prescription medication. This is particularly important if you have elderly relatives,” Gladden said. 

·       Potential cell phone service outages. “With the massive influx of people to the state and our region, we may see impacts to cell phone coverage,” Gladden said. “You may not be able to make a phone call. Please plan accordingly. Text messages they are saying are probably the most reliable means of communication, because the data packet might make it through when the cell connection might fail. So if you cannot get a cell phone signal out to call, try to text.” 

·       Emergency response may also be affected. “Because of the clogged roadways on I-30, all of our highways and local roadways, especially coming in from the south, anyone from Louisiana that wants to see this--they are coming here, folks. So emergency responsiveness may take them longer. Unfortunately, there's not much that we can do about that other than to make you aware of it. So if you encounter an emergency, please dial 911 as soon as possible. You can also text 911. A lot of people don't know that. So if you cannot get 911 on the phone, send them a text, and they can find your location.” 

Traffic snarls on all major interstates are expected to peak at about the time the eclipse is over. Lion member, Hempstead County Quorum Court member and retired police officer Steve Atchley said he was told by a good source that the I-30 stretch between Little Rock and Conway may take ten hours to navigate on Monday after the eclipse. 

Gladden added that the Hempstead County Office of Emergency Management would be present at both the Hope Municipal Airport and on the campus of UAHT where eclipse observation events are scheduled to take place, starting at 10:00 a.m.  Gladden described what else attendees April 8th on the UAHT campus would see: 

“We will have food vendors, education stations. We are handing out eclipse glasses. We've asked some Lions to help with that, for eye care and the eye safety. We have some student group fundraisers that are going to be out there. You can support your local students, such as the Multicultural Society, the UAHT Historians, groups like that.” 

In the event of cloud cover or rain, UAHT can bring attendees inside Hempstead Hall to view the eclipse as broadcast from the San Francisco Exploratorium. Two feeds, one for English-speakers and one from Spanish-speakers will be available.