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State and Local Governments Shine in Planning, Preparing for Eclipse 2024

News Type Leadership News

On April 8, the State of Ohio, in conjunction with large cities, small villages and townships located in the path of the eclipse, flawlessly rolled out the red carpet to thousands of out-of-state visitors while simultaneously providing a memorable event for millions of Ohioans. Mother Nature did her part and delivered clear blue skies across the Buckeye State.

A review of the state and local governments’ preparation and planning for the 2024 eclipse shows a model in emergency management leadership. Planning for large-scale major events provides a template and drill for emergency readiness.

Lesson Learned

ODOT Traffic Counts By the Numbers 

During this year’s eclipse, ODOT reported, interstates and the Ohio Turnpike experienced traffic increases as high as 71.7% (state Route 31, north of Marysville) and 67.4% (U.S. Route 35, southwest of Chillicothe).  

However, the public heeded the message to “Arrive Early and Stay Late” with increases in traffic also recorded the day prior to and after the eclipse. Congestion resulting from a mass exodus was avoided. 

More than 150,000 viewed the eclipse from over 30 state parks and wildlife areas in the path of totality, per the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which posted 300 law enforcement officers across the locations predicted to be busiest. 

Two years ago, Ohio state, county and local officials began to study the lessons learned during the 2017 total solar eclipse that crossed both Tennessee and Kentucky with a path of totality. Tennessee provided valuable examples, especially in traffic management and responses to altering weather predictions.  

Ohio planners wanted to avoid the Tennessee experience of motorists stopping dangerously on highway berms to view the eclipse and the mass exodus immediately following the eclipse that resulted in congestion. The primary safety concern for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), per Press Secretary Matt Bruning, was to avoid 12- to 16-hour traffic jams that occurred in other states in 2017. ODOT “did not want to see that happen here,” he said.

Across the State

When reviewing the eclipse planning, preparation and execution experiences of local leaders across Ohio, common themes for success emerge: Plan early, coordinate with key partners to leverage resources and send clear messaging to the public. 

Elyria, Ohio 
Elyria, Ohio, Mayor Kevin A. Brubaker reports the community of 52,909 welcomed approximately 35,000 visitors during the eclipse, and due to preplanning, which he assigned to Chief of Staff Rick Soto, no disruption was caused by the large inflow of vehicles. Elyria has proximity to both the Ohio Turnpike and Interstate 90. Brubaker plans to utilize the city’s major takeaway from the eclipse, “extensive preplanning averts problems,” and reports Elyria plans to continue to use similar planning techniques in the future. Elyria coordinated with partners including Lorain County Emergency Management, Lorain Port Authority and Lorain County Metro Parks.  

Mansfield, Ohio 
From Mansfield, Ohio, population 47,865, with proximity to Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 30, Mayor Jodie Perry shared that “the big takeaway for us locally was that the planning paid off” and that the eclipse preparation “provided some impetus to better coordinate local agencies.”  Partners the City of Mansfield engaged with were the schools, business groups, public health and social services. Perry credits their library for distributing 17,000 pairs of eclipse glasses. Finally, Perry reports that the coordination achieved during the eclipse planning will “come in handy on future projects and events.”  

Oxford, Ohio 
Oxford, Ohio, Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene reports that wide-spread, clear messaging that began several weeks prior to the eclipse contributed to the success in their community of 19,645. Oxford’s preparations included distribution of maps to viewing areas as well as the schedule of a full day of entertainment. In addition to the Butler County Emergency Management Agency, which the city met with often, local partners included the library, local art center, tourism bureau and local chamber of commerce.  

Dayton, Ohio 
In Dayton, Ohio, population 135,944, Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette was designated by City Manager Angela Coleman to be the city’s point person in the command center. Per Parlette, the city departments developed a full-scale emergency response plan. The city monitored conditions, but a declaration of a state of emergency was not necessary.  

In addition to the shared concern of traffic congestion, the City of Dayton also identified disruption of cellular bandwidth as a potential risk and developed a multi-tier communications plan to prepare if cellular communication was disrupted. To mitigate the traffic concern, the City of Dayton actively encouraged local employers, including the municipal workforce, to utilize remote work the day of the eclipse.  

Butler County, Ohio Emergency Management Agency 
When talking to local government leaders from southwest Ohio, a common refrain was the valuable resource and leadership provided by Jim Bolen, director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency, in preparing for the eclipse. Per Bolen, their plan was to engage their planning partners “early and often” and that the “collaboration from Day 1 was excellent.” 

Their local planning meetings for the eclipse began in July 2023. In October 2023, they hosted an Ohio Emergency Management Agency presentation to a Butler County Township Trustees meeting. Per Bolen, they kept local elected officials briefed on previews of what to expect and how each local government’s daily operations could be impacted. The message from the county emergency planners was, “We cannot plan for you, but we are here to help you plan.”   

Bolen also reported that the agency most citizens may not realize was a critical partner to planning and execution was the local health department, which managed the permits and setup for food trucks and temporary camp sites, including water and waste system management. 


Post-eclipse reports showed free-flowing traffic and more than 500 safe, family-friendly events across Ohio for a collective experience spectators will not forget. Being reminded of the value of planning, preparation and coordination is always a best practice. Local governments and the State of Ohio can now build upon the success of the eclipse, objectively evaluate the areas to improve and continue to strengthen emergency preparedness. 

Learn more from Zimomra at her June 12 one-day Communication Skills Bootcamp for Public Service Professionals to improve and elevate your abilities to communicate in the public arena. 

Submitted by Judith Ann Zimomra, J.D., M.P.A 

About the Author:  After 42 successful years in Ohio and Florida local government, Zimomra now teaches disaster and emergency management and public administration courses at The Ohio State University. She also works with local governments in strategic planning, governance and emergency preparation.