What's the worst that could happen?
Vattimo was clear during our interview that two years of planning, coordination, and cooperation has Madras feeling pretty prepared. But she had two ready answers when asked what she thought would go wrong.
First, internet. The town will have only so much, even with spare cell towers offering some extra bandwidth. “We’ve advised residents, businesses, and visitors to be ready to do as much business in cash as possible,” Vattimo says. “Card processing and ATMs use the internet, which will be slow and unreliable.” During the totality, she anticipates extreme slowdowns while every one of the 100,000 visitors tries to tweet their experience at once. She adds, “Nobody’s going to be successfully streaming Netflix that weekend.”
More pressing is the traffic situation. Cell towers and port-a-potties are portable, and grocery stores can stock up on food, but Eastern Oregon doesn’t have the roads to handle the number of vehicles likely to be on-site. Oregon overall is expecting a million extra cars on the road that weekend, with Jefferson County absorbing perhaps a quarter of them.