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Oregon Spent $260,000 For Military Backup During Eclipse

Umbraphiles and photographers prep their telescopes and cameras while they await the eclipse in Madras.

Umbraphiles and photographers prep their telescopes and cameras while they await the eclipse in Madras.

Elayna Yussen/OPB

This summer’s total eclipse of the sun in Oregon came with a price tag.

On Tuesday, the Oregon Military Department requested an extra $260,724 for its current budget to pay for the costs of managing crowds during the Aug. 21 event.

The agency’s deputy director, Dave Stuckey, told members of the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee that the bulk of money paid Oregon National Guard soldiers called into active duty.

“We activated 155 soldiers and Air Guard personnel,” he said.

The costs also included the use of military equipment. “Forty-eight Humvees, two Blackhawk helicopters, two Lakota helicopters,” Stuckey said. “We wanted to be able to respond and help just in case.”

In the months leading up to the eclipse, emergency management officials warned that huge crowds coming to Oregon would clog highways and stretch first responders to their limits. They said smaller communities in the path of the eclipse could face gas shortages, limited cellphone reception and medical facilities stretched to their limits.

A worst-case scenario, officials warned, would be a sudden wildfire that would force tens of thousands of people to flee on rural, two-lane highways.

But those worse-case scenarios did not happen. Aside from a few traffic jams, the eclipse largely came and went uneventfully.

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management is hoping to apply lessons learned during eclipse preparations to better prepare for natural disasters that could occur in the state’s future, such as a major earthquake or tsunami.

Lawmakers on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Safety gave a preliminary approval to the funding request from the Oregon Military Department. The final consideration of the request will come during the 2018 legislative session.

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