Oregon’s capital city and the surrounding countryside are expected to be among the top destinations for eclipse watchers in Oregon. The expected influx of visitors has led local officials to beef up their emergency services for the event.
Marion County straddles Interstate 5 and is the closest point to Portland along the path of totality. Visitors from all over the world are expected to flock to Salem and the rural communities that surround it.
County officials say it’s a guess as to how many people will show up, but they’re planning for an extra 100,000 to 500,000 people. And that potentially means a sharp increase in the need for emergency services.
“We’ve deployed across the county about a 40 percent increase in the number of ambulances that will be available,” said Shawn Baird of Woodburn Ambulance Service, which helps coordinate Marion County’s ambulance system.
Most of the extra ambulances will be units that normally wouldn’t be on call, but the county is spending $18,000 to base two extra units in a rural area that normally has limited emergency service.
Baird says a chief concern is making sure ambulances can get through the anticipated traffic jams. He says they are expecting traffic difficulties to mirror some of the snow and ice events of the past few winters, which saw traffic on major highways grind to a near halt.
Marion County won’t be the only community with extra ambulances on hand for the eclipse. KGW-TV reports that extra units are also being staged along the Oregon coast.