Police warn Far North to play it smart on eclipse rush
POLICE are warning Far Northern residents to start their solar eclipse planning early, with roads across the region expected to be heaving with sightseers for the November 14 event.
Patrols will be set up on the Captain Cook Highway while both the Kuranda Range and Rex lookouts will be blocked off in an effort to alleviate congestion.
Cairns police Insp Mark Jackson is in charge of Operation Eclipse duties and said a major incident room would operate throughout the event.
"At this stage what we’re trying to get across is that we’re expecting traffic problems and people need to plan ahead," he said.
"It would be a shame if you didn’t plan ahead and you arrive at a site and find there’s no room left because once sites are full they will be closed down.
"There will be intensive traffic controls in place and they will be there well before people start arriving.
Insp Jackson said Ellis Beach was likely to become a bottleneck with Rex Lookout closed and limited parking available at Ellis Beach.
Oak Beach was also likely to present a problem, with a big crowd expected there due to it being on the line of totality, where people will get the longest view of the eclipse.
But Insp Jackson has encouraged residents to consider beaches further south, with crowds likely to be smaller and the difference in eclipse time only a matter of seconds.
"One problem we’re still in the dark about is how many people are going to be here," he said.
"It’s a very diverse and complex operation and one which requires the deployment of police over a very wide area, some doing diverse tasks."
Full hotel occupancy is likely to involve 60,000 visitors, but this does not take into account those who travel just for the event.
Acting Insp Mark Stewart is jointly co-ordinating the operation and said recent figures showed an occupancy of 85 per cent.
The operation takes in the greater Cairns region including the Atherton Tableland, and Palmer River to the north.
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Solar force: Insp Mark Jackson, with sergeants Larissa Flood and Jane Hudson, pore over Cairns regional maps as local police continue their preparations for the solar eclipse. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS