By Mayor Pat O’Neill for The Island Eye News
Dear Island Neighbors,
We are on the brink of a once-in-a- lifetime event…at least for those of us of a certain age. Fortunately (hopefully) I am not talking about an earthquake or tsunami. Yep, our eclipse of the sun impends. Totally.
You have no doubt heard that we will have a total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. Much of the country has also heard about it, and many (about a million) of them are heading for South Carolina for the event. Much of the state, including our islands, is in the path of “totality” (area that will see the sun totally covered).
Of course not all of them are coming to the Charleston area, but lots and lots and lots of them are. When this was written, the occupancy rates for Aug. 20 – 22 for Charleston area hotels (now with more rooms than ever before) was 98-100%, and Airbnb.com and VRBO.com were stating that only 3% or fewer of their properties were available for those dates. Yuge.
In addition to a spectacular celestial event, the huge influx of visitors and potentially massive movement of area residents will create impacts of great consequence for all of us living in the area and especially on the Island. Please prepare for this event.
The Town is coordinating with the City of Charleston Emergency Management Department efforts which in turn are coordinating with appropriate local, regional, state and national agencies. This is a really big deal and we should all get ready. Not to panic, but to prepare.
My take: Think of it as hurricane preparation, without the anxiety and plywood, and with everyone coming rather than going. The other fortunate difference is that we know exactly when the natural event will transpire. (Partial eclipse begins at 1:17 p.m. and ends at 4:10 p.m. with totality beginning at 2:46 p.m.)
However, in this case, the big unknowns are also in nature’s hands: whether we will have clear or cloudy skies, and whether we will have a rainy day or not. Clear weather here will increase the crowds, especially if other areas in the path of totality are predicted to be cloudy.
Here’s what we know:
• Traffic in the Charleston area will be exceedingly heavy. Given that beaches are being promoted as great places to watch the eclipse, we expect traffic to, on and from the Island on Monday, Aug. 21 to be extremely heavy…think July 4, except possibly worse given that the show starts and stops at the same time for everyone who comes here. The weekend traffic may also be like a holiday weekend. Traffic management on Monday will be the same as for holidays.
• Your best bet will be to hunker down right here. Anticipate any needs for off-Island trips and try to get them out of the way Friday, or Saturday at the latest, certainly not Monday. If you leave the Island on Monday before the eclipse you may not be able to get back for it!
• Don’t forget that real-time video of traffic conditions can be viewed at www.511sc.org or with the free “SCDOT 511” app. In any of these cases, click on “Cameras” and then “Charleston Beaches”. Cameras 100, 101 and 102 show conditions on the causeway (Hwy 703).
• With the influx of folks, the high volume of cellular usage will likely impair cellular service. For non-emergency needs, if possible, text rather than calling or using video communication, as your odds of getting through will be much greater and you will lessen the burden on your cellular network. But if you need 911, call 911…and don’t forget your landline if you have one.
• You would do well to gas up your vehicles and stock up your fridge and pantry before the weekend. Beat the crowd and avoid any potential shortages or hassles.
• Because of heavy network usage, credit card terminals may not all be functioning. Stash some cash.
• On Monday, the Town will be marshaling its Public Safety resources. Our Police Department will have extra staff including normally off-duty officers, Beach Services Officers and possibly other law enforcement personnel. Parking, alcohol and dog ordinances will be enforced as on any other day.
• Our Fire Department will likewise have extra staff with normally off-duty firefighters and Fire and Rescue volunteers. An additional Charleston County EMS unit will be positioned either on SI or IOP.
• Please thank all our Public Safety folks when you see them, it will not be a holiday for them.
• On Monday, Town Hall will be open 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., closed 1 – 3 p.m., and then opened again 3 – 5 p.m.
• Given the likely very large beach crowds on Monday, many of whom may not be attired for…uhh…swimming, there will be portable toilets near the entries to our most popular beach paths. They will be placed a few days in advance and removed within a couple of days of the event. We have also scheduled a special collection of all beach path trashcans on Sunday in anticipation of Monday crowds.
• And of course, protect your eyes with safe eclipse glasses. Here are NASA recommendations: bit.ly/ECLIPSEEYESAFETY Let’s make it fun!
As you can surmise, for those of us lucky enough to live in a place that everyone else wants to come to, we will have crowds and traffic and other challenges. Please be patient, and do what you can to make the day a pleasantly memorable one for you, and yours, and everyone who is here during this event… resident and visitor. And to enhance the experience, here are some ideas for your eclipse music playlist from Island residents Peggy Schachte, Hal Currey and their family including granddaughter Oona Warren: Eclipse (Pink Floyd) Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler) Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles) You Are My Sunshine (Late Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis; thanks, Oona) Soak Up the Sun (Sheryl Crow) Little Fluffy Clouds (The Orb) Let the Sunshine In (Hair soundtrack) You Are the Sunshine of My Life (Stevie Wonder} Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone (Bill Withers) That Lucky Old Sun (Ray Charles or Frankie Laine) You’re So Vain (Carly Simon) See you around the Island! (Except 2:46 – 2:48 p.m. Aug. 21, when it will be dark)
Pat O’Neil, Mayor
843 670 9266