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Plattsburgh city and town officials prepare for totality

A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon.
Aubrey Gemignani
A total solar eclipse is seen on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 above Madras, Oregon.

The town and city of Plattsburgh are in the path of totality during Monday’s total eclipse and are planning events and viewing sites with an influx of visitors expected.

The city of Plattsburgh will experience totality for over three-and-a half minutes, one of the longest durations in New York state. Officials have designated the city beach as its official viewing site and are warning residents to expect increased road congestion. A shuttle has been organized to transport people from remote parking areas to the beach, where food trucks and bands will play. Director of Community Development Courtney Meisenheimer says city officials are confident they are ready for solar viewers.

“Our fire department, our police department are ready to act accordingly with an increased amount of people coming in to the area,” Meisenheimer says. “If that means mitigating traffic, responding to emergencies, you know we’re looking at this from a regional approach and emergency services have been coordinating on a regional level for quite some time in preparation for this. Otherwise the main event is the actual eclipse itself. We’re hoping that people will come down to the beach. Maybe they’ll bring some lawn chairs, they’ll get some food and just enjoy the music and enjoy the atmosphere, take a walk down along the beach boardwalk and just really utilize this great amenity that our city has.”

Supervisor Michael Cashman says Cadyville Park is the Town of Plattsburgh’s official viewing site. He has been getting calls from as far as Rhode Island requesting information about visiting.

“To put it in perspective Clinton County is about 80,000 people,” notes Cashman. “We should see a significant influx over that three-day period but specifically at the total solar eclipse. The state has shared some numbers. There’s a number of other websites and resources that have published things. One of the higher numbers that I’ve seen is that the general area could see upwards of 180,000 people. Now, that’s probably the larger Adirondack region. There are a lot of different events that are going on throughout the Adirondack coast and the greater Plattsburgh region. Most studies, because other communities have had these events in the past, will travel about 200 miles to go to the path of totality. So if it’s a beautiful day it may inspire more people to show up.”

To the south of Plattsburgh, Essex County officials have declared a precautionary State of Emergency from 9 a.m. Saturday through 9 a.m. Wednesday. Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gilliland says with a tremendous number of people coming to the area, it will allow the county a greater ability to react if an emergency arises.

“If everything goes smoothly and there are no issues it has really no effect but we’re just in a position to react for whatever comes our way and in this situation we don’t know what it is,” Gilliland says. “It’s not like an ice jam on a river, a forest fire, flooding or anything else like that. We don’t know what’s going to happen with this massive influx of people. So we just decided let’s be ready for anything.”

This is not the first time Meisenheimer will view a solar eclipse. She was in Portland, Oregon during totality a few years ago.

“It was kind of spiritual,” recalls Meisenheimer. “As it gets darker and darker you start to notice that the birds are quieter and quieter and it’s like the animals start noticing that something is a little bit different. And then during totality it’s just a moment of awe. I just remember sitting with myself and sort of witnessing it and enjoying just having to think of nothing at all except for what I was experiencing at the moment. And then it all kind of reverses itself in this cool way. So maybe that all sounds a little bit goofy but it’s a really, really wonderful experience both scientifically but also spiritually. And I’m really excited for folks who haven’t experienced this and it’s so special that we’re in the path this year.”

The partial eclipse will begin in Plattsburgh at 2:14 Monday afternoon with totality beginning at 3:25 pm and lasting 3 minutes 44 seconds.