Platte County officials starting to prep for rare solar eclipse

Although Platte County is just a bit south of the prime viewing zone for the 2017 total solar eclipse, the visitor’s bureau is bracing for an influx of tourists.

The rare celestial event will take place Monday, Aug. 21 — the first time such an eclipse has been visible in this area since 1869. From roughly 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., the moon will pass between Earth and the sun, hiding the sun from view. 

The sun will be totally obscured for two minutes, 10 seconds in Platte City at approximately 1 p.m. that day, causing the effect of midnight at high noon.

Jennifer Goering, executive director of the Platte County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, spoke at the Monday, May 1 Platte County Commission meeting about eclipse preparations. Outside of county plans, other municipalities in the area have also started to prepare.

“It will get darker, and the wind will pick up. You’ll get to see sunset colors in the sky and the stars will come out. It’s quite the experience,” Goering said of the total eclipse, which will not again be experienced in this area for 189 years. 

St. Joseph, Mo. is the local epicenter of eclipse preparations with Goering saying the city is expecting up to 500,000 visitors for the event. Due to its close proximity, Platte County will experience a tourist surge as well. 

Some have even warned for the potential of people stopping and parking on streets and highways, leading some to worry about emergency preparedness.

Goering said she is in talks with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office to prepare for the influx, and eclipse events are in the planning stages. 

A public eclipse watching party is scheduled at Platte Ridge Park just north of Platte City, and county school districts are also planning viewings. Private events will be held at numerous venues, including one at Holladay Distillery in Weston, Mo. 

“We don’t know how many people may show up, but we want to be ready for them,” Goering said. 

The visitor’s bureau plans to purchase a stock of eclipse viewing glasses, allowing visitors to safely watch the eclipse, to distribute at area hotels and events.