With just a few days to go until the total solar eclipse, agencies are working together to dispense information on traffic, health and safety, wildfire danger, camping, and weather among other things to residents and tourists eager to view the once-in-a-lifetime celestial phenomenon. A wide variety of information about the eclipse can be found on Facebook and Twitter by using #OReclipse and #Eclipse2017. A non-emergency Oregon state eclipse hotline is operating through Wednesday between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Dial 2-1-1, visit 211info.org or text ECLIPSE to 898211. Real-time traffic information is available at tripcheck.com, and a clickable map allowing users to pinpoint their location and learn about fire danger and restrictions is on the Oregon Department of Forestry website…click on fire restrictions and closures. The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office has an information line available at 541-506-2792 and will post information on its Facebook page, as will the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.
Drivers are reminded with expected congestion on highways the next few days to watch for emergency vehicles and get out of the way to allow them through. Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill says if an emergency vehicle has its lights and sirens on, there is a reason for it. ODOT is reminding motorists that in Oregon, if an emergency, roadside or tow vehicle is on the side of the road displaying warning lights, you are required by law to move over a lane, and if you cannot do that safely or you are on a two-lane road, you must slow down to at least five mph under the speed limit. If you’re heading to the “path of totality” to view Monday’s solar eclipse, be prepared to spend a lot of time in your car in heavy traffic. Take plenty of food and water, and make sure you fill up your vehicle with gas before you go.
There will be more ambulances than usual stationed in central and eastern Oregon this weekend and early next week as crowds are expected to arrive to witness Monday’s solar eclipse. Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency that enabled Oregon to bring additional ambulances and attendant personnel into the state to respond as needed during the eclipse event. American Medical Response says it is providing 23 ambulance and 46 paramedics and emergency medical technicians at nine different locations at the request of the Oregon Health Authority. Those locations include the Maupin Fire Department and the Cow Canyon Rest Area. The deployment also includes a mechanic with a truck and trailer full of tools, replacement parts, and medical supplies to be stationed in Madras to handle any restocking or vehicle issues.
Utility officials say there is no truth to rumors of rolling blackouts during Monday’s solar eclipse. Northern Wasco PUD issued a statement saying they have heard of the rumor about rolling blackouts circulating, but they have no such blackouts planned. The PUD says it has been working with community emergency response partners to take steps to ensure safe and reliable power before, during, and after the eclipse.
With a mutual separation agreement now in place with outgoing President Frank Toda, the Columbia Gorge Community College board now moves on to finding a replacement. College board chair Stu Watson says in the short-term the board wants to find someone with experience as a college president to serve on an interim basis while a national search goes on for a permanent hire. A search firm will be brought in to head the effort. He also says the board plans to do active outreach into the community to get input on what it wants to see in a college president.
As Monday’s total solar eclipse draws near, emergency officials who have preparing for months the event and the expected throngs headed to areas in the path of totality, including south Wasco County, are getting ready for people to arrive. Much of the preparation has centered around dealing with high volumes of traffic, and Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill notes traffic is like water, it tends to flow to the easiest way. He says if there are traffic issues on Highway 97 through Shaniko and Sherman County into Biggs, it could push onto Highway 197 through Dufur and Maupin, Highway 216, and Interstate 84. Magill says they are working closely with the Oregon Department of Transportation for increased signage and crews stationed ready to assist with dealing with accidents,and the Oregon State Police will be focusing its patrol in that area. He also advises patience by drivers and to expect lengthy delays.
A lightning-caused fire about eight miles east of Shaniko has burned just over 5,000 acres. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center says the North Pole Fire started on Sunday. The fire is burning in grasslands, and the Center reported this morning that fire behavior is minimal. The fire is on unprotected lands, and there is no containment level at this time. The Bureau of Land Management is the lead agency on the fire, and seventeen people are assigned to it.
The Bingen City Council is contracting with an engineering firm to develop options for dealing with stormwater and traffic issues on some streets, in particular Jefferson Street. Mayor Betty Barnes says they are dealing with two problems: people taking shortcuts from main streets and going too fast through neighborhoods, and stormwater runoff going on to private property. Barnes says the stormwater project is the top priority, adding they hope the solutions provided for Jefferson Street can be applied to other streets as well.
One of two inmates who escaped while assigned to a firefighting crew at the Headwater Fire north of Goldendale was arrested in Portland Wednesday morning. KATU-TV reports that the other escaped inmate is still at large. Police say Tyray Munter and Maksim Petrovskiy escaped from their Department of Natural Resources fire crew early Tuesday morning. Portland police say a citizen spotted Munter, who was arrested him at a convenience store in southeast Portland. Officials are still searching for Petrovskiy. Both inmates had been held at the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks. Munter is serving a six-year sentence on assault and theft charges. Petrovskiy was convicted of stealing a vehicle.
Columbia Gorge Community College President Frank Toda will be leaving that position at the end of September. The CGCC Board of Education unanimously approved a mutually acceptable separation agreement with Toda at a special meeting Tuesday. Board chair Stu Watson thanked Toda for numerous contributions to the growth of the college in his sixteen years in the position, noting expansion of the school’s physical footprint including establishment of a Hood River campus, adding a health sciences building in The Dalles, and securing classroom space in the Fort Dalles Readiness Center, along with the school achieving independent accreditation status. Watson says with a college board featuring four members that took their seats in July, it is an opportunity to go in a new direction to improve programs and enrollment. Toda was under contract until 2020, but says he will enter into retirement and the decision to part ways was mutual. Toda will leave the position on September 29. Under terms of the agreement the college will pay Toda the equivalent of six months salary, $89,425, while Toda agrees not to pursue any legal action. The college board will begin an immediate search for an interim president while it conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.