Continued preparations for total eclipse


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — A little over 180-days until the community experiences a very rare event. A total solar eclipse will take place on Monday, April 8, 2024 and will stretch across the United State from Eagle Pass, Texas to Caribou, Maine. However, Darke County will be in the heart of the eclipse and will witness total darkness. In Darke County, totality is expected to begin around 3 p.m. and finish around 3:20 p.m. However, the entire eclipse is approximately 2 ½ hours long.

To help prepare for influx of visitors to the community, Darke County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (EMA), law enforcement agencies, Darke County Health Department, schools, Darke County Visitors Bureau, Darke County Chamber of Commerce and numerous other agencies are holding regular meetings to prepare.

For Darke County, events will come under the banner Darke Side of the Moon, but at a recent meeting of the agencies, it was learned that some organizations and, even law enforcement, are hesitant to go full throttle on preparations. Why? The number of people invading the community will be dependent upon the weather. If the weather is overcast or rainy, eclipse watchers are going to travel somewhere along the nationwide route to find a better place to experience the event.

However, if the weather favors Darke County, Darke County Homeland Security estimates Greenville and Darke County’s population could double or even triple. “We are preparing for something that could happen,” said Ken Johnson, of the Darke County EMA. Perfect weather could mean two to three hour waits at restaurants, a lack of cell phone service, difficulty with internet access, and more traffic than Darke County usually sees – even on a race weekend at Eldora.

To battle some of the unknowns, the Darke County Visitors Bureau (DCVB) and Darke County Chamber of Commerce are moving forward with making the one-day event an extended weekend event. Main Street Greenville is working with downtown Greenville businesses to have shopping events, BMI Karts is currently planning a concert for that weekend, the Darke County Fairgrounds will host two camping groups, and Darke County Parks are planning events in three locations to watch the eclipse.

Greg Billings, executive director of DCVB, wants to know who is planning events so they can put them on a map to give to visitors. The information will also be listed on the DCVB website and the Darke Side of the Moon Facebook page.

Jim Atchley, superintendent of the Educational Service Center, shared that schools are still undetermined on how they will proceed. He said one school has already decided to close and others are looking at an early release for students. However, they have already cancelled after school activities and activities.

Darke County Health Commissioner Jordan Francis and his office are promoting eye safety as well as temporary sewer, campground and food servie regulations.

The Ohio Highway Patrol and Darke County Sheriff’s Office both shared they are taking a wait and see approach. However, Sheriff Mark Whittaker encouraged the Ohio Department of Transportation to erect digital signs a week ahead reminding local motorists and visitors about an increase in traffic.

Sheriff Whittaker expressed concern with events taking place and the need for additional security. He said his office wouldn’t be able to handle too many events. If they brought in officers from other places there would be issues of who is paying for it and where do you house them.

The groups will continue to meet as the event gets closer, but events will need to be turned into the DCVB soon in order to get the maps prepared. For more information, contact Billings at 937-548-5158.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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