A total solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon considered dangerous only if you try to view it without proper eye protection. But you need to think about more than just your eyes, particularly for what happens AFTER the eclipse ends.
We experienced the 2017 eclipse firsthand while camping at Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Tennessee. When the event concluded, we returned to our campsite to relax. We had no idea of the mayhem on the area roads and freeways until we read about it in the news and on Facebook the next day. We’re anticipating this year’s event will be bigger and even worse.
On April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will sweep across North America. It will plunge parts of Mexico, the United States, and Canada into darkness for a brief but awe-inspiring moment.
What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s light from reaching Earth. This creates an eerie twilight effect, even during the daytime, as the Sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere, becomes visible. The total darkness lasts only a few minutes. The entire eclipse event, from partial phases to totality, can stretch over several hours. It will start and end at different times, depending on where you watch it. You can find a great chart from NASA to help determine when the eclipse begins and ends in different locations, including the time of totality.
Where will the eclipse be visible?
The path of totality for the 2024 eclipse will trace a narrow band across North America, starting in Mazatlán, Mexico, and ending in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. The eclipse will be visible in varying degrees throughout much of the continent. Partial phases will occur in areas outside the path of totality.
We’re fortunate because, thanks to some pre-planning, we will be in the Hill Country of Texas during the eclipse. It’s considered one of the top places to view the eclipse. We’re looking forward to an even more fantastic experience than the one we had in 2017. And that was epic! Here’s our YouTube video on the eclipse as we saw it in Tennessee: https://youtu.be/TmwjaHB79Cc?si=y0MMeHIqpmKvACyn.
Planning your eclipse-viewing trip
Besides planning your route and accommodations to see the eclipse, don’t forget to plan your route, timing, and accommodations for leaving the area after the eclipse. We’ve heard of terrible traffic jams along many local, state, and interstate roadways after the 2017 eclipse. That included I-75 near our spot in Tennessee essentially becoming a parking lot.
The day-use Texas state park we’re hosting at is preparing for an influx of visitors on April 8. We’re learning how local officials are concerned about traffic jams and the resulting difficulties with emergency services, supply access, and, unfortunately, the lack of patience we may see in many people.
As with most outdoor events, remember to pack essential supplies such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, water, food, and certified eclipse glasses. (You should never look directly at the Sun, even during a partial eclipse, as it can permanently damage your eyesight.)
In addition to what you need as you travel to the eclipse and having supplies on hand while you await the experience, think beyond that. What if you sit for hours in a parking lot or traffic jam? Will you have enough food and water, not just for the event but for the trip home? Will you have any necessary medications and extra clothing? And don’t forget battery packs and cords to charge phones, laptops, cameras, and other devices.
What if you live in the eclipse path?
What if you live in an area where the eclipse is happening, and you’re about to be inundated with visitors? There is some concern about grocery stores being overrun as people arrive in an area. And then being unable to get trucks in for a day or two to resupply their shelves. The same could happen with gas stations. So, if you live in the eclipse zone, think about stocking up on groceries, fuel, and other necessary items well before eclipse day. That’s not to suggest panicking and over-buying. Just ensure you have the necessities covered for a couple of days after April 8.
If you do live in an eclipse area, has your employer started planning for shifted work schedules? It’s possible that heavy traffic will make it difficult for employees to get to work or return home.
Don’t miss it!
We cannot stress enough how much patience you need to pack for April 8. Whether it’s dealing with people visiting your town, traffic on the roadways, over-booked hotels and campgrounds, or masses clamoring for an open space to view the sky – you will need patience. But with proper planning and a dose of goodwill, you will experience a unique celestial event. And another one just like it won’t occur again in North America for another 20 years. Make the most of it – and we’ll see you out there!
If you’re looking for more detailed information about the eclipse, where to see it, and how to prepare for it, these websites are great resources:
NASA Eclipse website: https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEgoogle/SEgoogle2001/SE2024Apr08Tgoogle.html
Great American Eclipse Website: https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/
American Astronomical Society Eclipse Website: https://eclipse.aas.org/