Towns County, GA – The weather forecast is favorable for Monday’s solar show and visitors from around the world are making their way to northern Georgia to experience the rare celestial event.
As the highly anticipated Great American Eclipse approaches, Towns County officials confirm preparations are in place.
Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw assures the community that all agencies are working closely together. “We’ve done everything possible to prepare,” Bradshaw said on Friday.
Sheriff Chris Clinton tells Fetch Your News his agency has worked hard at planning for a variety of potential scenarios.
“We have no way of knowing the volume of visitors at this time, but we have everyone scheduled to be available within a two hour window. We have broken the county into four zones as opposed to two with multiple deputies in each zone. We had a brief with all patrol deputies [Thursday] evening,” Sheriff Clinton said. “I will personally be monitoring traffic flow all weekend and we will continue to access the traffic situation, which so far is our biggest concern.”
Sheriff Clinton suggests following the Towns County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook for updates. “We will do our best to relay information in a timely manner,” the Sheriff remarked.
The Sheriff’s Office reminds citizens and visitors that camping is not allowed on Bell Mountain and a limited amount of vehicles will be permitted to view the eclipse from the summit on a first come, first serve basis.
Hiawassee Police Department requests the public refrains from parking at McConnell Baptist Church. The parking lot will be used in an emergency situation should Chatuge Regional Hospital’s lot overflow.
Citizens and visitors will be permitted to park at the Recreation Center free of charge, but are asked to keep off the ball fields.
Parking will be available at Towns County school for a fee to view the eclipse. The school resource officer will be on site for security.
Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith reiterates traffic could become congested and advises residents to remain at home if possible.
“We’ll have extra officers over the weekend and all officers [on duty] Monday,” Chief Smith affirmed.
When asked if concern of potential terrorist activity exists, Sheriff Clinton said he is not aware of a credible elevation in threat levels at this time. Police Chief Smith confirms the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), has not alerted his department of any specific danger.
Towns County Fire and Rescue trucks will be fully manned, strategically staged in key locations, and equipped with medical supplies and hydraulic extrication tools.
“We hope everyone has a nice time and stays safe,” Fire Chief Harold Copeland expressed.
There is an agreement with Union County to provide overlapping coverage and mutual aid assistance if needed. A rescue boat will be staffed during the event and Coast Guard auxiliary units will patrol Lake Chatuge.
Towns County EMS will place an additional ambulance in service and provide another on call.
Chatuge Regional Hospital will have extra staff in the emergency department during the event. The hospital has requested citizens and visitors refrain from parking at the facility unless visiting for medical related purposes.
Home health agencies will be on standby to provide rapid assistance to patients.
Towns County 911 will have extra dispatchers on duty and additional 911 lines have been installed.
Radio maintenance personnel will be on standby to quickly respond to communication issues.
E-911 asks citizens to avoid parking on the gravel road that leads to the radio towers on Bell Mountain. If access is necessary, vehicles parked in this area will be towed at the owner’s expense.
Towns County 911 requests the public limits calls to emergency situations only.
Citizens should understand the possibility of lines becoming overwhelmed exists at any given time. Overflow calls may be directed to a neighboring county as per existing protocol.
E-911 has requested the following phone numbers be made available to the public:
Ham radio operators will be on standby to assist county agencies with communications in an emergency situation.
The Department of Natural Resources will have additional officers assigned to Towns County. Helicopters will be staged in Union and Rabun counties to assist as needed.
The United States Forest Service reminds residents and visitors that only ticket holders will be permitted on Brasstown Bald. Forest Service law enforcement officers will be assigned to the area for security and additional personnel will be staged at key locations.
Georgia Department of Transportation crews will refrain from road work in the area during the event, but will be on standby to assist local agencies and respond to emergency situations.
Towns County School will be closed a full day on Monday, August 21. Young Harris College classes are cancelled as well. The college requests for the public to refrain from traveling upon the campus. All events at the college are limited to students, faculty and staff.
Follow Fetch Your News for news and updates on the Great American Eclipse.