Protect Your Farm From Eclipse Visitors

Prepare for Extra Traffic, Trespassers From Solar Eclipse Visitors

Elaine Shein
By  Elaine Shein , DTN/Progressive Farmer Associate Content Manager
Connect with Elaine:
As some rural counties expect to see tens of thousands more visitors than usual next week, they are warning residents of clogged roads and possible trespassers on rural property. This was one of the rural roads in southeast Nebraska in 2017 when traffic slowed to a stop as frustrated people tried to get out of cities to see a total solar eclipse. (DTN photo by Elaine Shein)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers and landowners along the narrow band identified as the zone of totality for the total solar eclipse April 8 may want to be prepared for the extra traffic and possible trespassers that might arrive Monday on their property.

They may also want to ensure they have enough fuel, food and medications stocked up before next week, warn some county officials.

Lessons were learned from the Aug. 21, 2017, total eclipse that occurred in some states such as Nebraska. That state attracted an estimated 500,000 people for that eclipse.

Even the best-prepared, well-intentioned solar eclipse seekers found their plans changed, thanks to cloudy or other uncooperative weather, desperately attempting to find a better place to spot the sun or being caught in heavy traffic in rural areas, slowing to a crawl of about 3 mph or a complete stop. Even a 30-mile trip in the countryside of southeast Nebraska suddenly took hours. Roads, highways and even the interstate had areas clogged with traffic jams and concerns about whether emergency vehicles could get to their destinations if needed.

As the eclipse got closer to totality in 2017, people in some areas began to drive into ditches, fields and even farmyards so they could tumble out of their vehicles and watch the eclipse if only for a few. Some respected "No Trespassing" signs. Others didn't.

For that reason, farmers are questioning what they can do this time to protect their property for a couple of days or more next week during the massive invasion of solar seekers.


Already there have been emergency declarations along the eclipse path, including by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. He noted how this was "an extremely rare event" with the last total solar eclipse passing over Indiana in 1869 and the next event to occur in 2099.

"It is anticipated that the state of Indiana will see a significant influx of several hundred thousand visitors to witness, what will be for nearly all, a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Holcomb noted state and local agencies have been preparing for this event for the last year, anticipating "there may well be widespread and significant impact placed on Indiana's emergency response, transportation, communication and other critical infrastructure systems by this tremendous influx of visitors throughout the state."

He added that "the massive number of people viewing the event in our state may well stress/or interfere with first responder and public safety communications and emergency response systems such that a technological or other emergency may occur." (See declaration at…)


Texas, expecting more than a million visitors, has cities and counties declaring a local state of disaster. Coryell County, for example, expects as many as 200,000 visitors in the days preceding, as well as the day of, the eclipse. Its proclamation on the county's Facebook page said, "extreme traffic congestion" and the visitors will place "an enormous burden on our infrastructure, law enforcement, fire and emergency service providers, and stressing our local resources to the point of creating food, grocery and fuel shortages, and disruption of cellular and internet services" which would affect the county residents as well as visitors.

Coryell County officials added that the "probability is extremely high that roads, streets and highways within Coryell County will be stressed beyond their design capacity, creating unsafe and hazardous traveling conditions and will likely impede and/or delay the responsiveness of law enforcement and emergency service providers."

County residents (population of just over 83,000 in the 2020 census) were urged to "ensure vehicles are filled with fuel and have sufficient food, groceries and medications to sustain your household and pets for four days."

In other areas of the country, rural counties have declared a state of emergency for Monday. Wayne County in New York expects 60,000 visitors -- its normal population is 90,000. The county explained it has mostly two-lane roads and needs help with traffic control.

Some counties have issued a state of emergency or disaster for two or more days, warning of clogged roads and possible cell phone service problems.


Ohio State University Extension, in its Agronomic Crops Network C.O.R.N. newsletter, said Ohio is expecting up to a half million visitors for the eclipse. "The potential increase of visitors to Ohio's rural areas raises unique safety and legal concerns for farmers and farmland owners," it stated.

The newsletter said OSU's Agricultural & Resource Law Program and OSU's Ag Safety Team offer five steps that farmers and farmland owners can take, including 1) secure the property; 2) understand trespass laws; 3) know responsibilities for invited guests; 4) plan for farming activities and; 5) be prepared to react to an incident.


"Depending on traffic congestion and proximity of fields, barn lots and homesteads, visiting motorists may just pull off the road wherever they are at the time the eclipse begins. This could lead to wandering around of uninvited guests both young and old. Farmers and farmland owners can take several steps to secure the property and prevent access," stated the newsletter.

Suggested actions include:

-- Walk around the farm with someone else first. "Have them help identify potential dangers that would appear open, interesting or attractive to an uninvited guest on the farm. This can be helpful, as we become desensitized to dangers that we see daily and we tend to overlook them."

-- "Take inventory of all equipment and equipment locations before April 8. Remove keys and lock cabs for all equipment in a non-secured building."

-- "Lock all shops and storage buildings, especially areas where pesticides are stored."

-- "Secure all ladders to grain bins, silos, hay lofts, etc."

-- "Restrict entry to drives, pits and lagoons with gates and barricades."

-- "Avoid biosecurity concerns and reduce the risk of introductions of new diseases; keep livestock inside and keep barns and gates locked."

-- "Post 'No Trespassing' signs at all points of entry to barn yards and fields.

-- Take "notes, pictures and/or videos of all areas you've secured."


"As long as a trespasser isn't endangering another human, our laws aim to protect the trespasser from serious harm or a death that could have been avoided. At the same time, Ohio has laws that assign liability to a trespasser who harms private property," the newsletter stated.

Suggested actions include:

-- "Be proactive and post warnings or notices of potential dangers and perils on the property."

-- "Install barriers around dangerous conditions where possible, or complete elimination of the dangers when possible is ideal."

-- "Deter trespassers by posting 'No Trespassing' signs and 'Warning' signs on property boundaries."

-- "Do not set any type of trap that could cause intentional harm to a trespasser."

-- "Do not pursue or attack a trespasser or hold a trespasser against their will unless the person has committed a felony, such as murder."

-- "Do not use excessive or deadly force against a trespasser who is not endangering a person."

-- "If the situation warrants, call law enforcement rather than escalating a trespassing situation. Be aware that law enforcement response times may be slower than normal due to the increased population and traffic in the area."


"If a farmland owner is considering inviting guests onto the farm to view the eclipse, participate in eclipse events, or camp or stay overnight on the farm, there are three major areas that raise legal and safety concerns. Those are liability, insurance, and licensing and permits," stated the newsletter.

Some of the suggested actions included dealing with dangerous situations; utilizing immunity laws if possible (although the newsletter noted that "charging a fee disqualifies a landowner from receiving immunity from liability under the Recreational User's Statute"; checking with an insurance agent on whether planned activities are covered under a policy's liability provisions; determining if licenses and permits are required; and ensuring that invited vendors are properly licensed (i.e. food vendors on the property).


Planning ahead covers everything from possible stormy weather to cell phone outages and travel being affected (including deliveries and repair technicians delayed). This could affect or delay spring fieldwork efforts. "Farming activities could be delayed and farmers could be forced to deal with interferences from increased populations and travel activities on rural roads," said the newsletter.

Suggested actions include:

-- "Take time now to perform routine maintenance on equipment and lessen the possibility of breakdowns that will need repairing when conditions are less than favorable."

-- "Inventories of feed, bedding, medications, etc. should be taken ... ahead of the eclipse."

-- "Extra supplies should be planned for the days around the event when travel and deliveries may be delayed."

-- "It is important to remember that farmers may be sharing the roads with motorists who are unfamiliar with large agricultural equipment. Make sure all lights and reflective material are clean and functioning. Use of escort vehicles in both the front and rear is recommended to warn approaching traffic from the front and prevent unsafe passing from the rear. If possible, try to limit the movement of equipment on roadways on the day of the event. The day before, consider locating equipment in fields or areas that need at least a day of work without leaving on roadways."


"If there is an incident during the solar eclipse period, a farmer must also be prepared to react to the incident. Doing so can minimize the risk of harm or liability," said the Extension newsletter.

This includes calling law enforcement or emergency services if necessary, realizing there could be a delay; having a first aid kit on hand and being trained to use it; preserving evidence by not moving or changing anything until documented -- and documenting right away what happened, including using phone camera or video, making notes of what happened, including witness statements and contact information.

Also, the newsletter said to be aware of what is being documented. "It is important in these days and times to assume that everyone has a camera (on a cell phone or otherwise) at all times. A trespasser can use this to show or dispute your actions, for instance. Maintain composure and don't do or say anything that could be harmful if captured in photos or recordings."

Finally, the newsletter said to call an insurance agent with "prompt notification" if an incident happens. "Be sure to have the insurer's contact information readily available."

The full list of recommendations in the C.O.R.N. newsletter can be found at…

To see DTN's story on the latest weather forecast for the day of the eclipse, see….

To see DTN's story on how to safely watch and photograph the eclipse, see…

Elaine Shein can be reached at

Follow her on social platform X @elaineshein

Elaine Shein

Elaine Shein
Connect with Elaine: