The Total Solar Eclipse
On August 21, America is going to have first-row seats to the only solar eclipse most of us will see in our lifetime. The path of totality—the area in which viewers will see a total eclipse with the moon completely blocking the sun—will cross Missouri starting around Kansas City and ending near the boot heel. The path is a little over 300 miles long, and the expected number of visitors is 1.2 million.
Missouri is going to be pretty crowded along those 300 miles. If everyone spread out evenly over those 300 miles, that’s still 4,000 visitors per mile. That doesn’t include the people who already live in the area.
An increase in population density of this magnitude means several things:
- Emergency response times will be lengthy in the event of an emergency.
- The possibility for an increase in traffic accidents is real.
- The number of people on the road will lengthen drive times.
So how do you safely enjoy the solar eclipse and all of the great events that have been planned in your area?
1. Plan for long drives.
Whether you’re going 15 miles down the road or 50 miles away from home, plan for an increase in your typical drive time. Bring water, snacks, and activities, especially if you’re traveling with children.
Leave early and then once you get to your location, stay put. Plan to be at your viewing station for several hours until the eclipse is over. Once it’s over, hang around a little while longer and let the roads clear out.
2. Plan ahead.
With that many people on the road, it will be difficult for roadside assistance services to reach in you a timely manner. Pack an emergency kit so you’re prepared for anything. Bring basic first aid items with you as well as any medication you normally take. Pack instant ice packs in case anyone gets overheated.
Before you leave, check the oil and fluid levels in your car. Don’t forget to check the air in your tires. Even cars with air pressure sensors will allow tires to reach a deficit that will affect tire wear and traction before alerting you to any issues. Catching a leak before you leave is always the best possible flat-tire scenario. It might save you quite a bit of time and trouble later after a breakdown to give your vehicle a thorough once over before leaving.
On the day of the eclipse, cell service in many areas along the path of totality is expected to be spotty. Make sure you let loved ones know so they don’t worry if they can’t get in touch with you. And make sure your group stays together or has a plan in place for meeting up later before separating.
If you have pets at home that will need to be let out, have a backup person and plan in place to make sure that happens.
3. Only view the eclipse with certified eclipse filters.
It is not safe to view the eclipse while the sun is still visible. To protect your eyes, you must wear eclipse glasses or view the eclipse with a viewer. You should purchase eclipse-specific eye wear that is ISO 12312-2 certified. This is an international standard, so no matter where you’re ordering your glasses from, the glasses should meet this standard. How do you know if your eclipse glasses meet the standards?
Look on the side of the glasses or on the viewer. It should be clearly marked with the ISO 12312-2 certification. If you’re buying online, then check the description and specifications of the glasses before you purchase. NASA put together a guide to help you in your glasses purchase, even recognizing the four manufacturers who are producing safe glasses.
Once the sun is completely blocked by the moon, you can view the eclipse safely without any eye protection. But make sure you know you are in an area where there will be a total eclipse. The path stretches across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. You can find out what to expect in your area here.
4. Make it an adventure.
This will be the only total solar eclipse most of us will see in our lifetime (unless we set out to travel around the globe to the next total eclipse). Make it an adventure for you and your family. If you can, make it a long weekend, staying or camping near the path of totality if you don’t already live in the path. But don’t wait to book. Camping sites and lodging are filling up fast.
Take a look at this kit offered by NASA. It’s full of free activities you can do to turn the eclipse into a learning experience.
5. Put your safety first.
Before you go, sign you and your family up for a CPR and first aid course. Make sure you can provide an immediate response to the worst-case-scenario. With an additional emergency response time because of the crowds in rural areas, CPR is even more important in such a scenario. Performing CPR could be the difference between life and death.
You’ll be protecting your family as well as others.
If you have medical concerns, please contact your ophthalmologist about your specific eclipse-viewing requirements. Protect your eyesight.
There are really amazing things that happen during a total solar eclipse. And these things have been studied and notated so that we can know down to the moment within the eclipse that we can expect to see each occurrence. Take a look at this video to learn all about it.