‘We’re excited to welcome the masses’: Niagara Falls prepares for a flood of tourists during solar eclipse

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – In just a couple of weeks, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Western New York to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse.

One of the busiest places to be on April 8 is in Niagara Falls. Thousands are expected to flood the city for the once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It’s really been an all hands on deck for us to ensure that your experience should you come to Niagara Falls to visit is a pleasant one,” Niagara Falls mayor Robert Restaino said.

Local and state agencies including park officials, police, traffic operation center NITTEC and the county’s emergency management office, are among those planning to ensure the event goes smoothly.

“We have a plan, we’re very comfortable with it and we’re excited to welcome the masses,” NYS Parks Niagara Region Director Mark Mistretta said.

Local agencies plan for heavy traffic during solar eclipse

To help manage the crowds, law enforcement says they are bringing in additional crews from across the state.

“We’re bringing in extra 100 troopers throughout the state here and the ones typically on their day off unfortunately they’re coming back to work and they’re going to supplement for 911 calls,” state trooper James O’Callaghan said. “When you have that many more people coming into an area you have to assume your EMS calls, your assistance calls all of that is going to go up.”

“As far as sight security here at Niagara Falls, we’re bringing officers in from all across the state. Long Island, New York City, they’re all coming up,” New York State park police Captain Chris Rola said. “To speak to the plan, we started booking hotel rooms almost a year ago so these girls and guys can get a place to stay and some of them are staying almost an hour away because that was the closest we could get almost a year ago. We’ve been working hard on the plan it’s a really good plan.”

List: Where to watch the solar eclipse in WNY

Rola says the Swift Water Rescue Team will be stationed at the brink of the falls and there will also be emergency crews stationed near the gorge.

The parking lots at the state park will open at 6 a.m. on April 8. Officials are encouraging people to come early and plan on staying late.

“9 and a half million people [visit] here from some time in late March to some time in early November. We’re pretty good at handling that,” Mayor Restaino said. “But when you take what could be several hundred thousand people and jam them into a spot for 2,3 maybe 4 days, that’s a different environment. Patience would be the most important word that I hope comes out of this.”

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter and Buffalo native who has been a part of the News 4 team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

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