By Gov. Pete Ricketts
In a few short weeks, thousands of visitors from across the country will flock to the Good Life to witness a once in a generation event. With some of the best viewing locations in the country, Nebraska is a prime destination for hundreds of thousands of people expected to converge here to watch the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017. There is extraordinary interest in the event since it is the first solar eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979!
Nebraska is one of a handful of states where the eclipse corridor spans the entire length of the state. Our open spaces make our state a prime location for viewing the eclipse, which is why many visitors have been making plans to travel to Nebraska for this historic event. Some estimates predict up to 400,000 people will come to Nebraska. This crowd of visitors is a great opportunity to put our Nebraska hospitality on full display, and to show them why we have the best place in the world, to live, work, and raise a family. Please be patient as traffic and communities along the pathway will likely be congested during this event.
While not all of Nebraska will experience the total eclipse, every region of the state will get to experience at least the partial eclipse. Among Nebraska’s best viewing locations are the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice, and Alliance where the Sandhills provide a clear and uninhibited view. The Nebraska Tourism Commission has great online resources with watch events across the state. Navigate to www.visitnebraska.com and search “eclipse” for more information. Additionally, there are many great state park and recreation areas along the eclipse pathway. Visit www.outdoornebraska.gov/eclipse for locations, and be sure to get a park permit in advance!
In preparation for the eclipse, my office and state agencies have been working together to facilitate the best viewing experience and to protect public safety. The Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is partnering with many state agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, Tourism Commission, Game and Parks Commission, Department of Transportation, Nebraska State Patrol, and Fire Marshal’s Office as well as others. This working group has also engaged the Red Cross and other local partners. Each agency is using their expertise to support communities, local governments, and organizations preparing to host thousands of eclipse watchers.
As we prepare for the event, we are encouraging Nebraskans to be prepared, plan ahead, and use common sense. This event is happening in August, which we all know tends to run hot and dry in Nebraska. It’s important to keep weather conditions in mind when making viewing plans in open fields or camping in areas that are dry and may pose a fire risk. Here are a few important reminders we are sharing with Nebraskans and visitors ahead of the eclipse:
• Plan ahead and purchase your eclipse viewing glasses early. Regular sunglasses do not filter out the harmful rays of the sun.
• Know in advance where you would like to view the event and plan for the day.
• Stock up on water, sunscreen, food, and gas in your vehicle.
• While August is typically hot and dry, we all know that Nebraska weather can be unpredictable. Be sure to keep an eye on weather forecasts and make prudent decisions accordingly.
• Plan for slower traffic and potential congestion. While estimates on visitors vary widely, we do know there will be a significant increase in travel on the day of the eclipse.
• Stay up-to-date on interstate and highway closures by downloading the Nebraska 511 app or by following @nebraska511 on Twitter.
• For your safety as well as the safety of other travelers, do not stop on the side of the interstates or highways. Find a safe location to exit your vehicle before viewing the eclipse.
• Lastly, as a good rule of thumb, turn your headlights on manually that day.
As the eclipse gets closer, my office and state agencies will continue to push out new information and tips for safely enjoying the eclipse. You can stay up-to-date on all the latest information about the eclipse and tips for safe viewing by visiting NEMA’s website: https://nema.nebraska.gov/operations/2017-solar-eclipse.
Nebraska is looking forward to the Great American Eclipse. This is a unique and significant opportunity to show off our state to one of the biggest crowds, if not the biggest, to ever visit Nebraska. As we prepare for this historic event, let’s make sure visitors to the Good Life come away with a great experience to share with their family and friends back home. If you have any questions about preparations for the Great American Eclipse, contact my office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 402-471-2244.