SALEM, Ore. -- Traffic appeared normal in Salem on Thursday. Most hotels expect their eclipse guests to arrive Friday and Saturday.
NASA is already in town, and set up at the fairgrounds. They’re preparing to use high tech equipment, which normally tracks the performance of planes in the California desert, to instead track a NASA jet flying a racetrack pattern over Lincoln City at 35,000 feet.
“They're gonna be doing a racetrack for the two hours. And it will be race to the bottom, fly to the top, to give you whatever we can. We’re gonna try to get a lot of footage of the waning and waxing of the eclipse as well,” said Bob Guere, a Range Control officer for NASA at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Southern California.
Cameras in the specially equipped jet will capture the first images and send them to the team’s semi-trailer control room, which will relay them to NASA TV and the world.
But the people making it happen probably will not see the actual event.
“I probably won’t,” Guere said. "Because the most important part of the time, I'm gonna be in there talking to the airplane.”
At the Salem airport, the Oregon National Guard, which was on alert for forest fire medivac help, is now also prepared to help with emergencies in the eclipse crowds.
“If the roads become clogged we could use local law enforcement to create a landing zone on a local roadway,” said Lt. Col. Brian Houston. He’s a pilot and is in charge of the Guard’s airbase.
The guard has a Blackhawk helicopter in Salem, along with two smaller choppers and another Blackhawk in Prineville.
They are ready to go on a moment's notice.
“The aircraft is all loaded. All of our gear is in it. All of our night vision is in it. The hoist has already been checked. We already ran the aircraft up this morning, the engine's already been checked. All I have to do is get in, have the copilot crank and we're gone,” said Lt. Col. Houston.
They're experienced at getting in and out of crowded situations. There is a lot besides flying for this pilot to think about.
“I'm gonna be careful about private property. I'm gonna be careful about, just because of experience, porta potties blow away, cars get sand blasted, portapotties get blown into cars. It’s happened,” the Lt. Col. said.
Also in Salem, Fred Meyer confirmed it is so worried about its employees getting caught in massive traffic jams that it is creating places where they can sleep and get food if they chose to stay at their store.
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