Folks… if this astrological event isn’t on your radar, it should be! There are a few things that make this solar eclipse special:
- The path of the eclipse runs the length of the United States. It first touches the US in Oregon and passes through fourteen states in total, leaving the US in South Carolina. The last time a solar eclipse ran coast to coast was 99 years ago. So no matter what state you live in, it’s less than a days journey to experience this once in a lifetime event.
- When the sun, moon, and earth align perfectly it creates a visual wonder known as a coronal mass. The majority of the US won’t see a perfectly aligned eclipse so seeing the rays of the coronal mass is a rare experience that has photographers, nature lovers, astronomers, and event junkies traveling from all over the world to witness. There are some great online resources that can illustrate how much of the eclipse can be seen from the desired location. EclipseMega.Movie allows you to enter your location and then plays a simulation of how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to view.
- America has waited 38 years since the last full solar eclipse. The last time a full eclipse aligned with the US in 1979, it only traveled through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.
- The 2017 eclipse falls on Monday, August 21. Which means that it’s a great excuse to extend your weekend and take Monday off.
Prepare for the Total Solar Eclipse
Before you begin to prepare for a total solar eclipse there are several things to be aware of. Cities like Idaho Falls (population 60,000), that find themselves on the official NASA Viewing & Broadcasting Map are expecting 500,000 visitors. With the massive projected influx of people come potential problems. Each city has been developing a safety preparedness plan in the hope that locals and travelers will prepare for expected problems.
- Expect stand still traffic in popular solar eclipse hot spots. The small town of Idaho Falls is expecting an 820% increase in population during August 18-22. City, county, and state officials are working together to address the problems that will arise, but our two lane highways are just not designed for that kind of volume.
- Traffic signals may not work due to power outages (see Power Outages details below).
- Ambulances, police, and fire trucks will have delayed times getting through traffic jams.
- Out-of-towners can find parking opportunities in city designated viewing locations.
- Locals, plan on traffic delays on your way to work especially August 21 and 22.
- Locals, also plan on no parking spaces available in front of your house if you are close to a viewing area.
- Traffic apps are available for real time updates on traffic conditions (I15 Mobile App).
- Cell phone towers have a high probability of becoming overloaded. Text whenever possible instead of making a call.
- Don’t rely on your cell phone for GPS directions in an area where cell towers may be overloaded. You can download a map onto your phone, print out a map, get a folded street map or atlas, use a car navigation GPS system (if you have an old system you should update the software before your trip).
- The potential of a motorist hitting a telephone pole is higher with the increase in traffic and road-rage from standstill traffic.
- Create an Emergency Family Plan.
- Your debit and credit cards may not be an acceptable form of payment due to power and internet outages if transaction machines stop working.
- ATM machines can run out of cash with the inflated population.
- Don’t expect banks to be open. Banks may limit their operating hours or be closed.
Food, Water, and Other Commodities
- Shopping may be difficult. If you were a store owner how could you prepare for an 820% potential bump in customers? There are just not enough shelves to keep everything in stock. Imagine the craziness of Black Friday shopping but instead of people fighting over the last 65 inch TV, they’re fighting over the last roll of toilet paper. The first items that are suspected to depleted are bottled water, snacks, sunscreen, chargers, and toiletries.
- Fast food restaurants may experience shortages as well. Whether you are staying home or traveling you may want to consider having an off-grid meal plan. Microwaves and ovens may not work due to power outages.
- Expect long lines and possible shortages at gas stations. Let’s average 5 people per car, divided by 500,000 incoming travelers, speculatively it equals 100,000 additional cars on the road. A small car’s gas tank holds 12 gallons. Gas stations typically hold 12,000 – 24,000 gallons of gas. Idaho Falls has about 16 gas stations which equate to providing fuel up to 32,000 cars so if the projections are correct there is a real likelihood of empty gas pumps.
- Fire department – locate the closest one to the place you’ll be staying. They are staffing extra volunteers but are limited with the number of trucks they have. The city recommended in some cases, the fastest way to get help might be to walk to the fire department.
- Urgent care & hospital – locate the closest one to the place you’ll be staying because you may not be able to look it up on your phone when you need one. Be aware of the potential of long waits and medical supplies running out.
- Police – they are setting up Incident Management Teams in sectors all over the city so that they can be close by to help when needed.
- 911 Call Center – all calls and dispatches will be prioritized by urgency. During some major events, volunteer Ham radio operators help in call centers.
- Emergency Alerts – subscribe to local area emergency alerts (Idaho Falls Alerts and Police Code Red).
- Port-a-potties will be set up along the highway, parks, camping areas, and in the designated viewing areas.
- Toiletry supplies are very likely to run out in public restrooms so plan on packing travel toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
- Local sewer systems are believed to be able to handle the increase in human waste. However, the concern would apply to a landowner with a septic system that plans on renting out RV and camping space.
- Trash overflow is expected to be a problem in public locations.
- Trash will not be collected in Idaho Falls on Monday so plan for at least a one day of delay for residential trash pick up.
- Local officials have counseled Idaho Falls residences to plan on power outages. This means air conditioning, cooking appliances, charging batteries and any thing else electronic may not be available for usage. You may want to consider having a power outage kit close by.
- Locals, stock up on ice blocks for the freezer and have ice chests on hand.
How to Safely View a Solar Eclipse
- Solar eclipse glasses are designed to protect eyes from harmful infrared radiation and ultra-violet light. Look for the code ISO 12312-2 to determine if the glasses meet the international safety standard.
- Protective eclipse eyewear is safe for up to 3 minutes of continual use.
- Cameras and camera phones weren’t designed for the eye protection required to gaze at the sun so wear your solar eclipse glasses while photographing.
- Experts believe it’s safe to remove the safety glasses only during totality. You’ll need to remove the glasses to see the rare celestial occurrence of the coronal mass.