No major public safety incidents reported in Johnson County during eclipse

Months of preparation for the total solar eclipse paid off, public safety officials say.

For nearly eight months, officials from across the county were preparing for the total solar eclipse. They looked at after-action reports from communities in the path for the 2017 total solar eclipse to prepare and learn from mistakes and issues identified back then. They also encouraged cities and towns to plan events to spread people out and asked schools to consider being closed for the day to minimize impacts.

The advice made the eclipse weekend pass without incident, officials say.

The only major issue to come up during the day Monday was a power outage on Franklin’s west side, which briefly knocked out a stoplight at Jefferson Street and Drake Road, officials said.

Most of the calls received by local public safety agencies were normal, non-eclipse-related EMS calls. There were no vehicle accidents or major bouts of crime either, said Duane Burgess, Johnson County sheriff.

Leading up to the eclipse, higher traffic was reported in Franklin. Parking lots were filling up, as were parks in Franklin and Whiteland, as examples.

At a 1 p.m. briefing just before the eclipse, officials discussed increased traffic on Interstate 65 in the state as people drove south from near Chicago and north from near Louisville. The increased traffic was a concern leading up to the eclipse, but interstate traffic cameras along Johnson County never indicated slow traffic, according to Google Maps and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Some of the rest stops along I-65 also filled up and closed, concerning local officials.

With an influx of people in the county, it was expected to take a little bit to get traffic cleared up and people on their way once the eclipse was over. Officials were encouraging drivers to be patient, Burgess said.

But those issues never materialized as traffic seemed to be moving smoothly out of the county as the hundreds of visitors began to leave. There was some heavy traffic near King Street and I-65, but not the gridlock communities in the path of a total eclipse in 2017 saw, Burgess said.

With cities and town hosting their own festivals to control the crowds, people were not parking along interstates like was seen in Kentucky in 2017. Everyone — police, fire and communities — have done well, Burgess said.

“Now, it’s just slowly getting people out of Johnson County,” he said.

Officials spent months planning for the eclipse, and seeing it go so smoothly is great, said Eric Funkhouser, Bargersville fire chief and a leader of the Johnson County Joint Incident Management Team. Having no major incidents happen was exactly what officials wanted, he said.

“We’re very thankful that everything went very well today and everybody had a good time,” Funkhouser said.

Some officials were even able to take moments to go out and watch the eclipse at the emergency operations center set up inside the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Training Center Monday. As temperatures dropped and it got dark with totality, cheers could be heard from nearby parks.

When it was over, a bald eagle flew over sheriff’s office too.

With the eclipse over, officials plan to do an after-action report to see how their preparations worked out. But seeing how different the impacts were compared to 2017, Funkhouser says the county was very fortunate to not have major issues or traffic impacts.

“Somebody said just a few minutes ago, eight months of planning for four minutes of the eclipse. It went well,” Burgess added. “As I said before, everybody works well together in Johnson County. We came together as a team.”