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Eclipse Traffic

People leave Casper Monday afternoon after viewing the solar eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017.

Heavy traffic kept Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers busy over eclipse weekend, but other emergency responders said they responded to fewer incidents than they had anticipated.

State troopers responded to more than 1,800 calls Monday, more than triple the number they dealt with on the same day the year prior, a highway patrol spokesman said. There was one death on the state’s highways, but the spokesman could not provide more information Tuesday afternoon except to say the fatal crash took place near Medicine Bow and involved a motorcycle.

A Texas man visiting Wyoming for the solar eclipse also died Sunday in a freak ATV accident in Teton County. That crash did not occur on a highway.

Estimates from the Wyoming Department of Transportation indicate traffic increased by 68 percent statewide on the day of the eclipse.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Sgt. Kyle McKay said the patrol was “taken by surprise” by Monday’s sudden spike in traffic, in comparison to relatively underwhelming numbers of travelers Saturday and Sunday.

The patrol issued 100 tickets Monday, in comparison to 25 on the same day last year. He called this year’s number of tickets “very low,” based on the massive increase in traffic on Wyoming’s mostly-two lane highways.

Casper’s emergency responders and hospital staff members also saw a spike in their workloads, though not to the same degree.

Wyoming Medical Center spokeswoman Kristy Bleizeffer said an anticipated surge in emergency room visits did not materialize as expected. Although numbers were up, they remained far below what the hospital had prepared for in conjunction with first responders.

On a typical August weekend, the medical center treats about 65 emergency room patients a day. On typical Mondays, the emergency room cares for closer to 85 patients. The emergency room was visited by 89 patients Saturday, 117 Sunday and 79 Monday.

Sage Primary Care and Mesa/Immediate Care centers totaled 249 walk-in patients Friday through Monday, Bleizeffer said. That number was up by 44 compared to the same period a week previous.

“People were just safe and responsible out there,” Bleizeffer said.

The Casper Fire Department experienced a higher call volume than it might receive on a typical weekend, spokesman Justin Smith said. He said the department responded to “proportionally more” calls, which he said was to be expected with a greater population in town for the festivities. Smith said a “handful” of those calls were related to the weekend’s events but they were mostly minor, such as a concert-goer who passed out from a combination of heat and alcohol.

The Casper Police Department “didn’t have any crazy mayhem,” Det. John Hatcher said, in reference to the three-day period leading up to the eclipse. Between 5 p.m. Friday and midnight on Monday, the department responded to 557 calls for service. Over the same period a week previous, the department responded to 383 calls.

Hatcher said he had expected the department to receive even more calls for service during the eclipse festivities, based on the number of people he saw downtown. The detective said he thought an increased police presence had effectively deterred potential crime, particularly alcohol-related violence.

Beyond city lines, the Natrona County Fire Protection District’s weekend was “really slow,” spokesman Matt Gacke said. The biggest call of the weekend was a two-acre wildland fire, Gacke said.

Follow crime reporter Shane Sanderson on Twitter @shanersanderson

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