Skip to content

ECLIPSE 2024: NOTL roads to close, fire stations to be staffed on April 8

Expect residential streets in both Old Town Niagara-on-the-Lake and Virgil to be closed to traffic for the solar eclipse Monday
road closed AdobeStock
Stock image

Niagara-on-the-Lake Coun. and Deputy Lord Mayor Erwin Wiens expects the town to be busier than ever for the solar eclipse on Monday, April 8. 

Because of that, he says residents should expect many residential streets in both Old Town and Virgil to be closed to outside traffic that day. Approximately 50 per cent of the town’s volunteer firefighters will be staffing each of the fire departments that day and for town staff, it will be anything but business as usual. 

“I want to stress that we began preparing for this more than a year ago,” Wiens told The Local Tuesday. “Each fire station will be staffed and ready to go all day. With the amount of traffic we expect, we need to have firefighters at the stations ready to go in the case of any emergency.”

Barricades will close off residential streets so they don’t become parking lots for people looking for a place to stop,. Main arteries, including Mississagua, John, Queen, Lakeshore and Mary Streets, will remain open to move traffic into and out of town. The Niagara River Parkway, governed by the Niagara Parks Police, will remain open through NOTL, although closures of the parkway are planned in areas of Niagara Fall and Fort Erie.

“Town staff will not be doing their daily work that day,” added Weins. “Staff will be positioned around the town strategically to react to issues that might arise, things like a tree coming down, a culvert overflowing, a water main break, the things they normally respond to.”

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa and Wiens will be on standby all day, as well. 

Wiens said that NOTL fire chief Jay Plato has been meeting weekly with a region-wide team of first responders to plan for all eventualities. 

“In case of major emergencies we have access to Niagara Helicopters, who work very closely with Niagara Parks Police in case we need to use them for evacuation,” said Wiens. “It may seem like we are going over the top, but we’re doing this to ensure everything runs smoothly.”

Wiens says he doesn’t expect to have an overwhelming police presence in the town, as the major focus of the Niagara Regional Police Service, with all hands on deck Monday, is aimed at the much larger crowds expected next door in Niagara Falls and Fort Erie. 

Asked whether or not the town had considered hosting an official event for the eclipse, Wiens said it was never up for discussion. 

“We did not want to, because I’m not sure we’re prepared to do that sort of thing,” said Wiens. “We have done the Tragically Hip (and other large concerts on the common), but this is different. We just let our tourism industry handle this. The hotels and the Airbnbs are full.” 

Many of the wineries are hosting events, and some neighbourhoods are planning to host street parties, but there is no official town-organized eclipse-watching gathering. 

“We’re taking the normal, everyday attitude to tourism, understanding that it is going to be busy,” said Wiens. “We know they are coming, we knew that a year ago. We’re definitely open for business, we’re definitely welcoming anybody who comes, but we didn’t feel the need to advertise it.” 

The town, he says, opted not to distribute solar filter glasses because they are recommending that people don’t look up at the solar eclipse. 

“What happens if they don’t use the glasses correctly?” he asked. “We took the position toward safety. Don’t look up at the sun, but if you do, use the proper glasses.”

As a member of the board of directors of the Niagara Parks Commission, Wiens has been privy to much of the decision-making for Niagara Falls’ plans to welcome visitors Monday. 

“A lot of what they are doing there is to try to disperse the number of people leaving every hour,” Wiens explained. “They were worried about a million people leaving all at the same time. So they have events to encourage people to stay to try to get 100,000 people to leave every hour.”

Finally, the last major concern for Wiens and the town is the possibility of internet outages. On Monday, several portable mobile cellular sites that provide temporary coverage when regular coverage is compromised were moved into Niagara Falls. 

“They’re called COWs (Cells on Wheels), basically relays,” Wiens explained. “A million people all getting on the data at the same time might shut the system down. We have to be prepared for that.”

A press release from the town with details about the road closures is expected sometime Wednesday.

“If it all runs seamingly and everyone says we overreacted,” concluded Wiens, “then that will be the perfect end to the day.”

Other ECLIPSE 2024 articles in the NOTL Local: 

St. Davids students take a trip to the moon

Provincial task force has been key in preparing for the eclipse

Whether through special glasses or a colander, watch it safely

Niagara police and emergency services getting ready for biggest crowd ever

The science, mathematics and history behind it

Mike Balsom

About the Author: Mike Balsom

With a background in radio and television, Mike Balsom has been covering news and events across the Niagara Region for more than 35 years
Read more