For many Baker County businesses that crammed their shelves last week, Monday’s solar eclipse marked the beginning rather than the end of their rush of customers.
Several merchants said they weren’t as busy as they expected to be during the weekend.
But after eclipse ended around 11 a.m. Monday, some stores were deluged with eclipse aficionados who fueled their cars and grabbed snacks before trying to get ahead of traffic.
Monica Thomas, shift leader at Jacksons Shell Station on Campbell Street near Interstate 84 in Baker City, said the station was very busy soon after the eclipse.
Thomas said it took her 20 minutes to make a seven-block drive to the store, starting around 11 a.m. Monday.
“At that time, I knew we were going to be slammed,” Thomas said Monday. “It looks like they’ve been scrambling to get out because I’m thinking they are trying to beat the rush.”
By about 3 p.m. Monday, Thomas said traffic at the station had slacked off, but was still steady as eclipse viewers continued to leave town.
Kelly Clayborn, manager at USA Gasoline, also on Campbell Street, said her store had similar traffic.
“We have been pretty slammed today,” she said. “We’ve had nonstop cars and people in and out today (Monday).”
That traffic through the station began early Monday, before the eclipse. Clayborn said the only lull in business was about 45 minutes before totality.
“As soon as the sun came back out, we got slammed again,” she said. “As soon as it got over, they were ready to get back on the road.”
Both gas stations sold more fuel over the weekend than they usually do on a typical summer day.
“Yesterday, we went through just about 4,000 gallons,” Thomas said.
She said typically the station sells about 1,000 gallons of gas on a moderately busy day.
“Normally in the summer we need one gas attendant out there full time and one on standby,” she said. “We’ve had two out there.”
As of Monday afternoon, Jacksons did not run out of gas, but had a fuel tanker parked in its back parking lot just in case.
The USA gas station had about 3,800 gallons of gas left Monday afternoon, from 11,000 gallons in the tanks on Friday.
Clayborn said she wasn’t worried about running out of gas before the next fuel delivery.
“We should be OK unless we keep being slammed,” she said Monday. “It’s possible we could run really low and possibly out.”
Clayborn said the store ran out of some cold deli items and was running low on candy and other snack foods on Monday afternoon.
Besides heavy traffic at the station, Clayborn reported that many of her customers throughout the afternoon said Interstate 84 was bumper to bumper traffic in many places between La Grande and Ontario.
In spite of the influx of travelers, Clayborn was happy with how things worked out for her store.
“I think everything was a success,” she said. “It wasn’t too overwhelming. I was very happy with everything. My team worked very efficiently. They handled the crowd very well.”
The situation was similar throughout Monday at Safeway in Baker City, store manager Brandon Sweet said.
But he said the pre-eclipse business was not as brisk as he expected.
“It was definitely overhyped,” he said. “We scheduled more (staff) than we needed. We brought in more product than we needed.”
Sweet said weekend business was pretty similar to a normal weekend.
See more in the Aug. 23, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.