Judge issues disaster declaration ahead of April 8 total solar eclipse

2024 03 04 Judgesignsdeclarationofdisaster 1709575444
Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly signs a disaster declaration ahead of the April 8 total solar eclipse. The measure was necessary if the county hopes to receive any state assistance or resources to help with the anticipated strain from eclipse crowds. - Photo by Lisa Walter/Kerr County Public Relations

Citing the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8 and the anticipated impact on local resources expected by an influx of visitors to the area, Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly has issued a declaration of disaster, effective Monday, March 4.

Since Kerr County sits in the path of totality of the eclipse, its normal population of 53,000 is expected to double or triple (or more) in population over the eclipse weekend and through the event that Monday.

“We expect that kind of visiting traffic here to cause extreme traffic congestion on our roadways, place an enormous strain on our first responders and hospital systems, drain our food and fuel supplies and strain our city and county infrastructure to, quite possibly, over capacity,” Kelly said.

“As a result, I’m issuing this declaration in the interest of the safety of all our residents,” the judge added.

“I encourage you to stay off the roads and at home, if possible, on the day of the event. Also, in the week preceding the event, I would encourage you to make sure your vehicles are tanked up, that you have sufficient grocery supplies, that your prescriptions are filled and that you are stocked up on provisions for any animals in your care over the duration of eclipse weekend,” Kelly said.

The Declaration of Disaster for Kerr County, Texas, went into effect Monday, March 4, and will continue automatically for 7 days. It will go before the Kerr County Commissioners’ Court in its regular session Monday, March 11, for extension. If approved, it will remain in effect until terminated by the county judge at some point after the eclipse date of April 8.

Judge Kelly notified Texas Gov. Greg Abbott of his intent to issue the declaration in a letter dated Feb. 23. He advised the governor that the sheer number of people expected to be in the area to witness the eclipse will cause a difficult challenge for our law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire departments. “This event is expected to be of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capability of the local jurisdiction to manage,” Kelly wrote.

By enacting the declaration in advance, it activates the Kerr County Emergency Management Plan and not only authorizes the county to take any actions necessary to promote life safety and critical infrastructure protection, but it also authorizes the furnishing of aid and assistance needed.

“The declaration is a necessary step required by the Texas Department of Emergency Management so that we can make requests for state assistance and state resources, and have those in place, if approved, in advance of the eclipse,” explained Kerr County Emergency Management Coordinator William B. “Dub” Thomas.

For more information about the eclipse, visit https://www.kerrvilletexascvb.com/kerrvilletxeclipse.