Texas Eclipse Fest in Burnet was shuttered early due to inclement weather

First responders reported a few hours of traffic after the grounds closed but nothing too catastrophic.

By Sarah AschApril 9, 2024 1:20 pm, ,

The solar eclipse left a lasting impression on many who gathered to witness totality in Texas, from Eagle Pass to Texarkana.

Tens of thousands of eclipse watchers gathered in Burnet, a small town northwest of Austin, for the Texas Eclipse Festival, an event billed as four days of music with immersive experiences on site.

However, the festival was shut down Monday morning before the eclipse occurred due to the threat of severe weather in the area. Festivalgoers were told to pack up and leave and to expect traffic delays.

Johnny Caraway, the fire marshal for the City of Burnet, said there were about 40,000 extra people on site between festivalgoers and staff. The decision to cancel the festival was mostly made because of the possibility of tornadoes in the area, he said.

» MORE: ‘Everyone here is a scientist’: Understanding the ‘observer effect’ during an eclipse

The resulting exodus led to several hours of traffic, though it was not as bad as predicted.

“We had probably about three to four hours of heavy traffic on State Highway 29,” he said. “Police officers turned off some of the lights and did manual traffic control. DPS came out and helped. We did have quite a bit of bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

Caraway said things were more or less back to normal as of Tuesday morning – though with a little more traffic than usual – and that his main takeaway from the experience is that good planning pays off.

“Fire Chief Mark Ingram brought in four extra ambulances and two extra fire trucks, and we had a lot of personnel on staff. And our emergency operations center was open,” he said. “I think the big thing is just being prepared. You’re going to have an increase in people and staff needs. And you just have to anticipate that.”

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The population in the area did swell considerably over the weekend. The city of Burnet’s normal population is just shy of 7,000, and the county is just over 52,000 people. Caraway said he’s not sure why the doomsday traffic predictions didn’t materialize but that preparation by first responders is a factor there as well.

“I think, too, that a lot of people didn’t come out to the event and didn’t come into the towns because of the weather,” he said. “We had everybody on staff ready to go, but we just didn’t see the problems. And maybe it was because we prepped ahead.”

Caraway said that throughout the busy day, he and other members of his team were able to watch the eclipse.

“We had some downtime,” he said. “We were really busy, but we had a schedule where we had people coming in and out. We were able to send staff home and give them some downtime for a few hours, and so it worked out.”

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