The Belton Journal

   Bell County Judge David Blackburn held a press conference, during which he declared a state of emergency ahead of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse. Judge Blackburn said that the county is currently projecting a significant influx of population in the days preceding the April 8 total solar eclipse. Some are projecting the county population to double or triple the current population of approximately 400,000. These visitors will likely arrive as early as several days before the event, with an out-migration occurring in the hours immediately following the eclipse.

   “If these numbers manifest themselves, the strain this will put on our infrastructure will be significant. Everything from our first responders to our health care systems to our fueling stations to our highways to our emergency management systems … all of these, and more, could be severely strained by this influx of people,” said Blackburn.

   Due to that, he said he believes the solar eclipse has the potential to create a state of emergency in Bell County.

   Blackburn said there are several advantages to issuing this declaration ahead of the event, which is a little more than four weeks away. First, it will help the county’s Office of Emergency Management coordinate and collaborate with the State Department of Emergency Management, and if the need arises, the county will be able to have state assistance.

   Judge Blackburn said that the declaration also allows the county to require property owners in the unincorporated areas of Bell County to register with the Bell County Emergency Management Office if they plan to host watch parties, dry camping, or any other large-scale event of 50 or more people. The reason for this is so that first responders can be more ready in the event any severe congestion occurs in a particular area. The form can be found and completed at

   “We are anticipating severe traffic congestion on the day of the event, both before and after it occurs. The ability of our first responders to respond will be enhanced if we know where large gatherings of people may be in the unincorporated areas
of the County,” he said.

   For those hosting camp sites on their property, the county is asking landowners to submit a camping site plan, as well as a diagram for first responder routes onto and off of the property. Likewise, Judge Blackburn announced that county offices will be closed on Monday, April 8, so as to encourage the county’s 1,200+ employees to stay home that day.

   “Staying home and enjoy
ing the eclipse from your yard will be your best and safest option,” Blackburn stated. “Many other entities, and most of the school districts, are also going to be closed for the day.”

   He strongly encouraged locals to do their shopping, buy their gas, and run their errands prior to the weekend of April 6-8.The City of Belton itself is about 35 miles east of the center line of totality, and will experience approximately 3 minutes and 52 seconds of darkness during the total eclipse, around 1:36 p.m. on the afternoon of Monday, April 8. Locals will be able to view the partial phase beginning at 12:19 p.m. that afternoon, as the moon begins its glide “across” the sun.