Estimated 40,000 view eclipse in Piscataquis County

DOVER-FOXCROFT — An estimated 40,000 people viewed the total solar eclipse in Piscataquis County on the afternoon of Monday, April 8. Despite the region’s population more than doubling for the event, everything went very smoothly as the Piscataquis County Commissioners learned during a meeting on Tuesday morning, April 16.

“We’re estimating between 30,000 and 40,000, we won’t have those numbers for a week or two,” Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director Jaeme Director said. She said the Maine Department of Transportation would have the finalized figures.

Duggan said Greenville Town Manager Mike Roy estimated the community’s eclipse numbers at 30,000 people. Thirty-five miles south, Dover-Foxcroft Police Chief Seth Burnes had the town’s figures between 10,000 and 12,000.

Bangor Daily News photo/Troy R. Bennett
SKY VIEWERS — Eclipse watchers view the celestial phenomenon along Greenville’s waterfront on April 8. An estimated 30,000 people viewed the eclipse in Greenville.

“We have excellent, excellent cooperation among agencies,” Duggan said. “Almost everything in our pre-planning went as planned.”

For months agencies around the region had been gearing up for the first total solar eclipse in Maine’s skies since 1963. Among the best viewing spaces in the country were Piscataquis County and other parts of Maine to the north. Around 3:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on April 8 the moon was fully in front of the sun for a total solar eclipse, after leading up to the event starting at around 2 o’clock that day.

Piscataquis County EMA set up a command center in Greenville at the new public safety building for the agency, Greenville police and fire departments, Northern Light CA Dean Hospital, Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Warden Service, and Maine Forest Service. Elsewhere police and fire departments across the region were at the ready for the influx of visitors.

Duggan said responses were organized instead “of everyone responding to everything.” She mentioned 20-plus cars mistakenly drove onto the ATV trail at the end of Depot Street in Greenville Junction but the warden service was able to handle the situation.

Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
PATH OF TOTALITY — Dover-Foxcroft was on the southern edge of the path of totality for the solar eclipse on April 8, with darkness temporarily setting over the Foxcroft Academy campus just after 3:30 p.m. An estimated 40,000 viewed the celestial event in Piscataquis County, with 10,000 to 12,000 in Dover-Foxcroft.

A plane flying to the Greenville Municipal Airport from Boston was briefly lost on radar, but Duggan said the craft was soon found without further incident.

“Pre-planning was worth it, I’m very proud of the work everybody put in,” Duggan said.

She said all the travelers did back up roads, such as the drive from Greenville to Guilford taking three or four hours or more than three times as long as normal, but few if any problems resulted from the anticipated traffic delays.

“We’ll say there were a lot of people with the eclipse, we had no issues and things went well,” Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Todd Lyford said.

In other business, County Manager Michael Williams said he and Piscataquis County EMA Deputy Director Deb Hamlin had a preliminary meeting with FEMA on recovery pertaining to the December wind and rain storm. Williams and Hamlin were set to have a second meeting later in the day on Tuesday.

The EMA is working with unorganized territory residents and municipalities on reporting storm damage.

In January President Joe Biden declared the wind storm a major disaster. The proclamation makes public assistance available to Androscoggin, Franklin, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties as they recover from widespread infrastructure damage. If awarded, funding may not be distributed for 12-18 months as is standard practice.

Williams said some ditches in the Unorganized Territories have been flooding, contributing to road washouts. He said he is hoping the county would also receive some funds to address these problems.

The commissioners heard from Valley Grange Program Director/Lecturer Walter Boomsma. He said members of the Guilford-based organization voted on the 2024 Citizen of the Year award “and this year we voted unanimously to honor the dispatchers of Piscataquis County.”

A community celebration will be at the Grange Hall on Friday, May 17 with a community potluck supper at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. award presentation.

“Our dispatchers are amazing people,” Boomsma said, saying he believes there are about 13 on the Piscataquis County roster and these members of the sheriff’s department don’t always get recognized.

He said one Valley Grange member heard over the scanner how efficiently and calmly dispatchers handled calls during the recent storms.

“We certainly agree with you, we have fantastic dispatchers,” Commissioners Chair Andy Torbett said.

Recipients of the Valley Grange Community Citizen Award from the last decade-plus are 2010, the Guilford Primary School; 2011, Dodie Curtis; 2012, Brian Woodworth; 2013, the Piscataquis Observer and WABI-TV; 2014, Julie Orton; 2015, Matt Hackett; 2016, Sherry French; 2017, Will and Melissa Wedge; 2018, Jamie Kane; 2019, Judy Raymond and Barbara Austin; 2021, employees of RSU 68, SAD 4, SAD 41, and SAD 46; 2022, everyone in the area in honor of the spirit that held communities together for the previous two years; and 2023, the late Roger Ricker.

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