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Niagara Falls, Ont., mayor, police and telecoms brace for eclipse day crowds as 1 million visitors expected

Niagara Falls, Ont., Mayor Jim Diodati says that when he goes out on April 8 to watch the total solar eclipse, he’s packing everything he might need for the entire day.

“My plan is I’m riding my bike down there with my backpack. And it’s going to be loaded with cereal bars and water bottles. I’ll have, of course, my eclipse glasses and an extra charger for my cell phone,” he said.

“I’m preparing as if I’m not going to be getting out of the park until late.”

The city is preparing for around one million visitors that day — its most ever — which could make getting around difficult.

With a projected three minutes and 32 seconds of totality — when the moon fully covers the sun — starting at 3:18 p.m. ET, Niagara Falls is marketing itself as one of the best places to see the eclipse, a celestial phenomenon that won’t repeat in the Hamilton and Niagara regions for over a century. 

That day, people across the continent will see the moon pass between the sun and the Earth. In some places, it will partially block out the sun. But in others — including Hamilton, Burlington, Ont., Six Nations, Ont., and Niagara — the moon will fully block the star’s light, making this a desirable place to be for interested viewers and die-hard eclipse chasers alike.

Hotels in Niagara booked up

Niagara Falls has a variety of events planned, several of which will be run by Niagara Parks. It oversees the Niagara River corridor between Fort Erie, Ont., and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and manages attractions including the Floral Clock and the Power Station. 

CEO David Adames told CBC Hamilton that while attendance is highly weather dependent, Niagara Parks sees 100,000 visitors on a typical April weekend. Many area schools have moved PA days to coincide with the eclipse, effectively giving students a long weekend, but this won’t be a typical one.

Preparations include extending attraction hours and bringing in portable washrooms, Adames said. He joked that the one thing officials can’t control is the weather. Diodati said a nicer day will likely mean more people. Adames predicts it will be busy regardless “because the eclipse is going to have an effect [even if it’s] cloudy or raining.” 

Niagara Falls, Ont. mayor on how to prepare for eclipse day

5 hours ago

Duration 2:10

Jim Diodati, the mayor of Niagara Falls, Ont., said he’s packing everything he needs for the day when he goes out for the eclipse on April 8.

Diodati said a documentary company that produces films around the world told the city to expect seven to nine times as many people as their biggest event. That would be Nik Wallenda’s 2012 highwire walk across the falls, which 130,000 to 150,000 people came to see, he said.  

Hotels are booked up, he said, and he’s heard some people say their vacation rentals were booked up a year in advance. 

In addition to the relatively long period of totality, Diodati figures the city’s draw must include the falls.

“It’s gonna be a special time,” he said. 

Police, GO transit making plans to manage traffic

Niagara Parks has its own police service, which Adames said is working with Ontario Provincial Police and local Niagara police and first responders to prepare for crowds. 

They’ll be monitoring conditions throughout the weekend preceding the eclipse, and will be prepared to close the Niagara Parkway between Clifton Hill and Fraser Hill in Niagara Falls by noon or earlier, depending on crowding. 

Diodati said the city is also working with Metrolinx in the hopes of expanding GO train service.

The provincial transit agency told CBC Hamilton its service team is “currently finalizing plans on how the day will look,” and will share more regarding Niagara Falls and any other eclipse-day changes.

“We’re working on it from all angles,” Diodati said of crowd management. That means working with first responders, tourism businesses, and planning to ensure there’s enough food, water, washrooms, parking and transit. 

He added that other than entertaining people, part of the reason there’s a post-eclipse concert planned is to keep visitors from leaving all at once. He said that’s informed by the city’s experience on recent New Year’s Eve events. 

In Hamilton, city officials are also making arrangements ahead of the day.

On a website dedicated to information about the eclipse, the city shared safety advice, which includes warning drivers to be pay special attention to pedestrians who may be distracted by the eclipse, for people to give themselves extra travel time and about viewing the eclipse safely. 

Telecoms getting ready for increased cellphone usage

“We know that cell capacity will be challenged,” Adames said, noting that his staff will have radios to communicate with.

Diodati said that during New Year’s Eve, it can be slow to send a text, so the city is expecting the same disruptions on eclipse day. He added the city is working with telecoms to bring in mobile towers.

Bell spokesperson Rachel Jaskula told CBC Hamilton that the company is putting measures in place to ensure its network “continues to run optimally” in regions it anticipates large crowds to gather.

This includes pausing maintenance work that can impact capacity and monitoring usage levels, Jaskula wrote in an email.

“We will be monitoring usage levels and have portable cell on wheels, called COWs, ready to be placed nearby to add capacity for increased internet and voice usage.”

People will flock to Hamilton Niagara to view the eclipse. Here’s why

19 days ago

Duration 4:04

Robert Cockcroft, the director of McMaster University’s William J. McCallion Planetarium, shares why the Hamilton-Niagara region will be the best in Ontario from which to view the April 8 eclipse. He also explains why this eclipse will be a big deal, and how to view it safely.

An emailed statement from Rogers said the telecom company is “getting ready to handle the potential increase in wireless traffic in regions of total eclipse.”

Cogeco spokesperson Kristen Curry said the provider does not anticipate interruptions to its home phone or internet services. It does not offer cellphone services in Canada. 

Diodati’s eclipse survival guide

Overall, “we’re trying to walk that fine line where it’s going to be safe and fun,” Diodati said. “We’re excited. And then, it’s keeping me up at night.”

“We’re asking people to be prepared for whatever because none of us totally know [what will happen]. We’ll do as much as we possibly can.”

Here’s some of Diodati’s advice for eclipse viewers in Niagara Falls:

  • Bring your own eclipse glasses since you may not be able to find any on April 8.

  • Expect traffic, crowds and limited parking.

  • Pack any food, drinks and medication you may need that day.

  • Bring a phone charger.

  • Arrive early.

  • If you’re driving, fill up on gas.

How to make a pinhole projector to watch the total solar eclipse

6 days ago

Duration 2:04

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Victor Abraham demonstrates how to make a pinhole projector — one way to safely watch the eclipse on April 8. He says to use a long box for the best projection.

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