Western NC town braces for massive influx of eclipse viewers

FRANKLIN, N.C. (WNCN) - With as many as 75,000 people projected to view the total solar eclipse in this town that's home to just 4,000 people, emergency responders say they have been planning for about a year.

"It's kind of preparing for the unknown. None of us have that experience," said Franklin Police Chief David Adams.

He said meetings began last year to coordinate response to increased traffic as well as emergencies that may occur during the solar eclipse.

RELATED: Full coverage of the Great Carolina Eclipse

"Making sure the hospital avenues are opened up, so EMS and officers can get there quickly and also citizens can get there," he said.

Angel Medical Center in Franklin is one of three hospitals that Mission Health has in the area where people will be able to see the total solar eclipse. The other two are Highlands Cashiers and Transylvania Regional hospitals.

"(We) probably started preparing six, seven months ago," said Kathy Guyette, senior vice president of patient care services for Mission Health. "What we would need from a staffing perspective to medical supplies, to how we would support emergency services, ambulances, helicopter."

Guyette said staff members have been on call since Friday. The emergency departments at the hospitals have double the normal number of people working. They also stocked up on common supplies and equipment as well as having additional blood available.

Guyette said one of the key concerns is getting people to and from hospitals on roads that could be jammed with cars during the eclipse.

"And we knew with the traffic once people got in, we were gonna have great difficulty getting people out if they needed to get care here in Asheville," she said.

Mission Health has two helicopters available, she said. Additionally, the hospital system coordinated with other nearby states to have additional helicopters available if they're needed.

She said, "I don't know in my time here that we've had an event that's drawn such large groups of people into our more rural communities."

Because hotels sold out months ago in areas where people will be able to see the total eclipse, many people are camping out where they can get a good view

. In response, some hospitals stocked up on snake anti-venom as a precaution. Guyette said Mission Health already had enough available.

She says the primary concerns are treating patients for routine orthopedic injuries as well as potential cardiac issues and heat-related illnesses, all of which could cause greater numbers of patients to need care at area hospitals than would be typical.

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