1 week away: People traveling across the world to watch eclipse in rural Ohio county

NORWALK, Ohio (WJW) – After as many as three years of planning and preparations for a total solar eclipse, the event is now only one week away.

Norwalk, a city of less than 18,000 residents, is considered the 16th best city in the nation to view the eclipse with a projected 3 minutes, 53.9 seconds of totality.

Learn more about the total solar eclipse here

Just days away, the expectation is that the entire county population could more than double.

“Huron County has about 58,000 people plus or minus and I have been preparing for (100,000 to 125,000) people to come and view this event,” said Art Mead, director of the Huron County Emergency Management Agency.

Mead says visitors are expected in this largely rural county from across the world.

I’ve taken several calls from Europe, one from England, one from Italy and one from the Netherlands and they are asking how close we are to the Toledo airport or the Cleveland airport and when I ask why Norwalk or why Huron County as a whole, they expressed because they are coming from a smaller community and they want to stay in a smaller community,” said Mead.

“The most I’m getting from is Michigan just because how close we are. A lot of people, like I’ve heard a teacher say, ‘I’m bringing up a charter bus full of high school students from Michigan and we are going to come up to see it,'” said Kevin Rasnick, director of the Huron County Chamber of Commerce.

In Norwalk, events are planned for the fairgrounds and elsewhere throughout the city, starting over the weekend prior to the eclipse.

Twenty-seven aircraft are already confirmed to arrive at the city’s small airport.

Some landowners are allowing visitors to camp on their property.

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Mead says three years of planning for him have come down to execution and while he knows anything can happen, he has based his expectations on the actual experience of others in his shoes who have already experienced.

“What I have done personally is I have reached out to EMA managers all over the country, including Europe, asked what they dealt with during their version of the eclipse, before, after, during them. No point in re-inventing the wheel, and that’s where I get my numbers,” said Mead.

With just one week left, the thing he and others are paying the closest attention to is the weather.

Mead says forecasts show there could be a stationary front settling in over some southern states including Texas, which is also in the center of the path of totality, while the forecast one week out expects sunny skies and 61 degrees locally.

He believes if that happens, people will be cancelling their plans to go to southern states and coming here instead, adding to the number of visitors in the area.

Regardless, he and Rasnick say they are as prepared as they will be for what happens next week.

“I’m ready for it to get here. I think we have done all the planning we can do and I just think it needs to happen now,” said Rasnick.

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