NewsSolar Eclipse 2024


Bell County issues emergency declaration to help prepare for Solar Eclipse events

Posted: 4:50 PM, Feb 21, 2024
Updated: 2024-02-21 17:50:42-05
Bell County Judge David Blackburn

BELL COUNTY, Texas — Bell County has issued an emergency declaration in preparation of the Solar Eclipse on April 8, 2024, the county judge said.

On Wednesday, County Judge David Blackburn issued a statement during a press conference to address the projected influx of people arriving in the county to watch the Solar Eclipse.

"Some are projecting our population to double or triple our current population of approximately 400,000," Judge Blackburn said. "Projections are for this influx of people to begin occurring as early as several days before April 8th, with an out-migration occurring in the few hours immediately following the eclipse."

Judge Blackburn said the population influx could put significant strain on county infrastructure, including access to first responders, health care systems, gas stations, highways, and other emergency management services.

"This declaration is being issued under the authority given to me as County Judge under state law in order to plan, prepare and respond to events that create, or may create, a state of emergency in the County," Judge Blackburn said.

The Bell County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) will be working in conjunction with the State Department of Emergency Management to mitigate risks and assist in eclipse event preparations.

Judge Blackburn said having an emergency declaration in place will help facilitate state assistance should the need arise.

The declaration will also require property owners in Bell County's unincorporated areas to register with the OEM if they intend to host watch parties, dry camping, or other large-scale events that exceed 50 people.

The county said they anticipate severe traffic congestion in the days preceding, during, and after the eclipse and knowing where large gatherings will be taking place will help first responders respond to any emergencies in unincorporated areas.

Judge Blackburn also said that county offices will be closed on April 8 to allow for over 1,200 county employees to remain home and watch the eclipse—a decision made to keep more people off the roads.

Many businesses and school districts in the county will also be closed on April 8 too, he added.

"Please, if you have groceries to buy, gas to put in your car, or errands to run—do all of these days before the April 8th weekend," Judge Blackburn said. "You will be glad you did."

For more information about eclipse events in Bell County, visit their website here.