What can we expect leading up to and during the upcoming eclipse? Part One

Wednesday, August 9, 2017
The path the 2017 Solar Eclipse will follow over Missouri
(Contributed image)

On August 21, 2017, just after 1 p.m., a total solar eclipse will be viewable across much of Missouri. The path of the eclipse bisects Missouri from St. Joseph in the northwest to St. Genevieve in the southeast. This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979. The last eclipse in Missouri since 1869, and records indicate that Columbia and St. Louis haven’t seen one since around 1442.

This once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse presents an excellent opportunity and significant challenges as the eclipse sweeps across Missouri, barely missing Kansas City and St. Louis but crossing dead center, or nearly so, for many other cities and towns, including:

St. Joseph, with a totality, or longest duration of the sun being blocked by the moon, of 2 minutes, 38 seconds
Marshall, totality of 2 min., 39 sec.
Boonville, also 2 min., 39 sec.
Columbia, 2 min., 37 sec.
Jefferson City, 2 min, 29 sec.
Festus 2 min., 37 sec.
Ste. Genevieve, 2 min., 40 sec.

Concordia will be in near totality for approximately 2 minutes and 12 seconds.

As expected, astronomical interest and soaring excitement are being generated due to an event of this magnitude. The educational opportunities alone appear to be endless. But we would do well to realize the solar eclipse is not without potential challenges.

For example, an estimated 80 percent of Americans live within 600 miles of the eclipse path, which includes the aforementioned swath across Missouri. As a result, folks from across the U.S. are expected to descend on the state. Experts say that anyone living within 100 miles of the eclipse path, be prepared for:

Very heavy traffic

MoDOT and several city governments predict traffic the weekend before and on Monday, Aug. 21, to be heavy in almost every part of Missouri except the far northeast and south. Predictions of traffic flow range from heavy to very heavy around Kansas City, and across the entire I-70 corridor through Columbia, to absolutely immobile south of St. Louis. We can expect I-70, I-55, I-64 and other major highways to be all but paralyzed, especially during and after the eclipse.

History tells us that excellent views of a 1995 eclipse were to be had about 40 minutes north of Bangkok, Thailand, but return trips took as long as 10 hours. And during a 1991 eclipse, Mexico actually closed its borders to anyone without a hotel reservation because it couldn’t handle the traffic.

So, we should be prepared to wait it out. Activities such as leaving work and coming back during lunch or dinner breaks could be problematic the entire week before and the day of the eclipse. Stay informed about traffic, too. Tune to your local station broadcasting traffic information, news and commentary of the eclipse throughout the weekend and on the day of the eclipse.

Temporary gas shortages

A common thread found in all official statements about preparing for the eclipse event state it would be a good idea to have a full tank of gas before Aug. 18. In the past, similar events, especially those held in more rural areas, have shown temporary gas shortages do occur.

Possible power surges

Consider that a great deal more power is generated from solar sources than during previous eclipses. While the impact is considered entirely manageable, anyone more dependent on solar energy may see a noticeable drop, and then surge, in power during the event. When the moon covers the sun, it’s estimated that the power supply may drop by up to 75 percent.

More cash transactions, challenges with credit and debit card transactions

Increased volume will almost certainly change, temporarily, access to funds. Electronic credit and debit systems can and regularly do become overloaded on heavy shopping days. The same might well occur during the days leading up to, and the day of, the eclipse.

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