Oklahoma National Guard to assist emergency responders during eclipse

Mar. 19—Members of the Oklahoma National Guard have been called to assist agencies in a southeast Oklahoma county during next month's total solar eclipse.

Officials from the McCurtain County Emergency Management requested the assistance due to the expected 100,000 visitors coming for a view of the celestial event.

"McCurtain County Emergency Management requested our support because they expect up to 100,000 additional people visiting their communities to watch the eclipse," Lt. Col. Jabonn Flurry, the commander for the 63rd Civil Support Team said. "This influx of visitors has the potential to overtax local resources and thanks to the training and experience our Guardsmen have working alongside local agencies all across Oklahoma, the CST is uniquely qualified to support our fellow Oklahomans."

The ONG said members of the 63rd CST will coordinate with the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to provide McCurtain County first responders with additional HAZMAT response capabilities.

ONG said in the event of a HAZMAT emergency, such as an industrial fire, or another emergency that requires specialized training, the 63rd CST will be able to respond so local emergency officials to continue assisting citizens and visitors.

"Members of the 63rd CST receive more than 650 hours of HAZMAT and high-tech training from agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Justice, and the Environmental Protection Agency," ONG said in a statement announcing the response.

Officials said the mission shows another example of the many ways ONG supports their fellow Oklahomans.

The path of totality on April 8 will completely cover McCurtain County, and partially cover Choctaw, Bryan, Atoka, Pushmataha, Latimer, and Leflore Counties. The town with the longest total eclipse viewing time will be Shults, Oklahoma, approximately 3 miles east of Idabel, with 4 minutes and 19 seconds of viewing time, according to eclise2024.org. Totality will pass over Oklahoma starting at 1:44 p.m. and end by 1:51 p.m.

Along with the ONG, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will have more than 100 troopers scattered throughout the area to help with the influx of visitors.

More information about the state's response can be found online at oklahoma.gov/oem/home/2024-solar-eclipse.html.