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Niagara Falls
Monday, April 15, 2024
Town prepping for once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse this spring
Fire chief Jay Plato said the town is working with other municipalities in Niagara on plans to deal with throngs of visitors expected for next month's eclipse. File
A solar eclipse on April 8 is expected to draw millions of visitors to Niagara. Pixabay photo File

While Niagara-on-the-Lake won’t be promoting visits to the town to view the solar eclipse on April 8, work is still going on behind the scenes in preparation for this rare celestial event.

A report by fire chief Jay Plato, which came before town politicians at Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, stated that staff “are working to ensure that visitors will have a pleasant and safe experience” if they visit that day.

“Staff are liaising with community partners to understand and manage information received regarding proposed events and activities during the days surrounding the eclipse,” the report added.

Plato, the town’s emergency management co-ordinator, has been meeting regularly with counterparts from across the region before the big day.

Members of the town’s emergency control group have been meeting to make sure essential services in Niagara-on-the-Lake are active on the days leading up to, during and following the eclipse, the report added.

Plato, when contacted by The Lake Report, said discussions with other municipalities are ongoing but one thing is for certain: the eclipse is going to draw throngs of people.

“Neighbouring municipalities such as Niagara Falls are being promoted as being one of the hot spots for it,” Plato said. “Because of that, we are all meeting about how we’re going to mitigate that.”

Once plans are finalized, he said, members of the public, businesses and other stakeholders will be advised.

Traffic flow is a top priority, Plato said: “We’re trying to manage what that will look like.”

Niagara-on-the-Lake is no stranger to events – ones happening down on Earth – that draw crowds.

Plato said the town has the advantage of experience in this field, citing the Mumford and Sons concert held at The Commons back in 2015.

“That attracted 25,000 people so we’ve had large volumes (of traffic) before,” Plato said.

Minerva Ward, president and CEO of the NOTL Chamber of Commerce and Tourism NOTL, said while there will be no active promotion of the event, big crowds are still expected to come to town and that Tourism NOTL will be providing information to visitors.

“Our accommodation sector is seeing high occupancy,” she said. “We believe that by that time they will be almost filled up.”

That means little needs to be done in the way of active promotion.

Instead, Ward said businesses are being canvassed to find out what type of events are being planned with the goal of putting together an information package for visitors.

“It’s a great opportunity for the private sector to get those visitors through their doors,” Ward said.

Once that list of events has been compiled, an eclipse landing page will be created for the Tourism NOTL website.

“Our ambassadors will be present during that period,” she added.

Regardless of where people are viewing the eclipse in Niagara, preparation is the key to safely viewing the eclipse, a Brock University expert said.

Barak Shosany, assistant professor of physics at Brock, said people can watch the eclipse safely by purchasing certified eclipse glasses through a verified distributor or can plan to project the image of the eclipse on a white piece of paper using a pinhole projector.

“Using these methods, it should be 100 per cent safe to watch the entire eclipse,” he says. “During the precious few minutes of totality itself, when the moon completely covers the sun, it is safe to watch the eclipse directly, but care must be taken to return to safe viewing methods as soon as totality ends.”

Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage, Shosany said.

During the solar eclipse, the sun will be much less bright than usual, but still just as dangerous.

Looking at the sun through sunglasses, binoculars, telescopes or optical camera viewfinders is also dangerous, unless they are covered with professional solar filters.

Shoshany, a member of the Ontario Eclipse Task Force, said that while a total solar eclipse takes place roughly every 18 months, it rarely happens this close to Niagara.

A total solar eclipse occurred over Ontario in 1979, and the next one won’t happen again over the province until 2099.

In NOTL, the website Eclipse2024.org said totality is expected to occur at 3:18 p.m. and to last for about three minutes.

Council, meanwhile, voted to accept the Plato report for information purposes.

hutton@niagaranow.com

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