Police barrier downtown

Sgt. Richard Brown, center, helps break down a road barrier at the intersection in downtown Casper in 2011. Casper police are preparing for an influx of visitors seeking to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

File, Star-Tribune

An estimated 35,000 tourists are expected to descend on Casper to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but there’s no reason for local residents to panic because officials are prepared.

That was the message conveyed by emergency and law personnel at an event for the media Thursday afternoon at the Public Safety Communication Center.

“We feel comfortable that we’re as ready as we can be for this eclipse,” said John Hatcher, a detective with the Casper Police Department.

Hatcher said residents have expressed concerns that police will be too busy responding to visitors’ calls to look out for local residents, but the detective said that won’t be the case.

On a typical day in Casper, about 10 police officers are patrolling the streets, and the same number will be standing by during the eclipse to handle routine matters, according to Hatcher.

Additional officers will be on hand to handle festival-related incidents, explained Hatcher.

The detective said he could not reveal the exact number of additional officers due to security reasons.

The Natrona County Detention Center has stocked up on extra cots to prepare for potential overcrowding, but Hatcher said law enforcement officers will make every effort to safely solve conflicts without making arrests.

Hatcher also advised residents to stock up on groceries and fill up on gasoline prior to the festival to avoid long lines, and said everyone should be prepared for unreliable cellphone service, as the influx of people will likely strain the system. Paul Fritzler, the district manager of the Department of Family Services, urged families who plan on partaking in the festivities to designate a family meeting place in case children get separated from their parents and cell phones are down.

As authorities seek to avoid overcrowding at the jail, health officials are trying to avoid a similar situation at emergency rooms.

Anyone who needs medical attention but does not require emergency care should use clinics in order to keep the emergency rooms free for those in life-threatening situations, said Audrey Gray, the public health preparedness manager for the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.

Those who require basic medical care can also seek help from any of the nine first aid stations that the health department will have operating throughout Casper, said Gray.

She advised visitors to be wary of altitude sickness or heat exhaustion, and advised everyone to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.

Representatives from the Casper Fire Department and the Wyoming Department of Transportation both confirmed that their departments will have extra staff working at all times during the festival.

Although it’s necessary to be prepared for negative situations, Hatcher said there’s no reason to think the eclipse festival will be anything other than an exciting, memorable event in Casper and encouraged everyone to responsibly enjoy themselves and to be kind to visitors.

“This is a very positive thing,” he remarked.

Katie King covers the city of Casper

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