Niagara police begin public safety plans for million expected to view solar eclipse

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Niagara police begin public safety plans for million expected to view solar eclipse
WATCH: Niagara police begin public safety plans for million expected to view solar eclipse – Mar 21, 2024

Niagara Regional Police (NRPS) say action plans committed to public safety amid a large swath of visitors expected to view solar eclipse have begun, with just over two weeks left before the rare celestial event.

With several Niagara municipalities along the path of totality, officers from other Ontario jurisdictions like Hamilton and London will join some federal agencies to keep the peace on the afternoon of April 8.

Const. Phil Gavin says estimates that suggest a million could descend on Niagara Falls alone would make the celestial event one of the largest gatherings ever in the city, home to roughly 95,000 residents.

“As you can imagine, there is a finite amount of space, whether it be for vehicles or what have you in Niagara,” Gavin said.

“Certainly the consideration is that we may exceed that limit, so we’re certainly doing as much planning as we can.”

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Gavin says the other police services will supplement local firefighters and paramedics expected to be mobilize.

Traffic congestion is also at the top of the list of things NRPS wants travellers to be prepared for, as it’s expected the vast majority of people coming to Niagara Region will likely do so through the Queen Elizabeth Highway (QEW).

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“Plan what it would look like if you’re stuck on the highway in traffic for three or four hours when you’re in your car with your children,” Gavin suggested.

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“Are you prepared with snacks, food, water, medications (or) a blanket?”

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati is urging visitors to be “self-sufficient” and bring what they need in anticipation of difficulties picking up necessities when in the city Monday afternoon.

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“Either get up super early, or better than that come the day or two days early,” Diodati recommended.

“Know where you’re going to be and what you’re going to do.”

Almost all, if not all, of the estimated 14,000 hotel rooms in Niagara Falls are expected to be at capacity April 5 ahead of the Monday afternoon eclipse.

As of mid-March, the city endured a frenzy for accommodations, which were going for as much as $1,100 a night and selling out quickly.

Dr. Elaina Hyde, director at the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University, says the attraction of Niagara Falls is understandable to her but insists other sight lines in the Hamilton area will also be “optimal.”

“Everywhere south of around probably Hamilton is going to be quite good,” said Hyde.

“Then it goes sort of through Ontario … and you get a few good spots like Kingston and tiny pieces around the lake before it ends off going through New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Matt Skene, a manager at Beamsville’s Bench Brewing, says their planned viewing party sold out the day they began booking spots.

“It’s going to be a big weekend for us because of course the eclipse falls on Monday and a lot of people are going to be off that day, so it’s almost like a holiday without actually having a holiday,” said Skene.

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Gavin says those going through Niagara Falls should be wary of interruptions in mobile phone and internet service with such a large influx of viewers sharing the same communications towers across the city.

“We’re going to take a layered approach to our communications,” he said.

“It’s not just going to be about social media, we’re going to try to communicate with our partners, in radio and TV so that they can help us get that messaging out there.”

As part of a first stage in preparations, NRPS has set up a web page providing information dedicated to eclipse sightseers and city residents.

The information is expected to be updated regularly until April 8.

GO Transit adds extra trips between Niagara Falls and Toronto's Union Station

Metrolinx says it will boost service on April 8 adding a “special service” to and from Niagara Falls on the Lakeshore West line for those travelling to see the eclipse.

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The extra routes depart at 9:02 a.m., 10:02 a.m. and 11:02 a.m. from Union with return trips leaving the falls at 4:24 p.m., 4:54 p.m., 7:21 p.m. and 10:51 p.m.

Regular GO bus service will also be available for customers via Route 12 Niagara Falls/ Burlington.


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