Area officials have been anticipating Monday’s full solar eclipse for around two years, and the big day is almost here.
With thousands of people, some from the other side of the globe, expected to flock to Beatrice this weekend, the Gage County Sheriff’s Office is asking visitors and residents to follow area regulations and remain orderly to ensure everyone has a safe, enjoyable experience viewing the eclipse.
“We’ll start Friday doing about two or three briefings everyday through Monday,” Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson said. “…You’re going to have people coming from everywhere. We’ve only got so many resources and we’re going to do the best we can.”
Gustafson said the department is anticipating traffic issues, particularly with visitors traveling to the Homestead National Monument west of Beatrice.
While limited parking will be available around the homestead, people are encouraged to utilize the shuttle systems in place that will run regularly between Beatrice and the Homestead, as traffic congestion and delays are to be expected in many, if not most areas throughout the county.
Parking lots at the Homestead will be closed to the public on Monday beginning at 6 a.m., and the shuttle service will be in effect from Saturday to Monday.
The County Board decided to allow parking on one side of the roads around the Homestead to ensure emergency vehicles can get through if needed.
Limited parking will be allowed on:
• West Hoyt Road from Southwest 61st to Southwest 103rd roads.
• Southwest 89th Road from West Scott to West Hickory roads.
• Southwest 75th Road from West Scott to Hickory roads.
• West Juniper Road from Southwest 75th to Southwest 89th roads.
• West Hickory Road from Southwest 61st to Southwest 89th roads.
Beatrice Police Capt. Gerald Lamkin said the department will have extra officers on duty through the event, and is stressing that everyone should be patient.
“The biggest thing that I tell the officers is to be patient,” he said. “That hopefully will be stressed upon our citizens, as well. The ones who will probably have issues with the large crowds are ones who live here in the community … our citizens will hopefully be more patient over these next few days and embrace this event that many of us will never see again in our lifetime.”
The dispatch center will also be fully staffed throughout the event, ready to take calls.
Motorists are also encouraged to leave early, reduce driving speeds, watch for pedestrians, drive defensively and pay extra attention at blind intersections and other areas that may pose a danger.
John Hill, a member of the Gage County Board of Supervisors, also cautioned motorists that many intersections in the county are not marked with stop or yield signs.
“I think there should be a caution about the gravel roads are not stop sign protected at the intersections,” he said. "Some are and some aren’t. You have to assume they’re not.”
The sheriff's office is asking that everyone be respectful of property owners when attending events or parking in these areas, and keep in mind that much of Gage County is a rural area and that the roadways are shared with farm vehicles and equipment traveling at a reduced speed that are generally wider than normal motor vehicles.