The 2017 Solar Eclipse: Highlights

August 23, 2017

11am Wednesday

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Now THAT was worth waiting for wasn’t it?  I haven’t talked to a single person (that experienced totality) who was disappointed.  In fact almost everyone I’ve talked to would love to see it again and many are making plans to see the next total solar eclipse…somewhere on this planet.  The pic is from Tyler Mode who was out around Antelope in Central Oregon.  Here’s another from Tyler:

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My experience?  It was a bit different due to being on-air off/on from 6am-1pm.  So it was a “work day”, but at least I was right under the spectacle and I was able to be with my family, so that was important.  A few observations from my experience that stick out:

  1. The forecast was right on and as normal as it gets in late August; just about everyone was able to view the eclipse except parts of the immediate coastline where fog/clouds blocked the view.  Fire smoke didn’t seem to bother us much in Madras.
  2. During the partial phase the decrease of energy from the sun was so noticeable.  It’s like we went from strong morning summer sunshine at 9am to weak November sun in just an hour.  I think that’s why a lot of people think the temperature dropped dramatically.  More on that in a second.
  3. I forgot my glasses!  I only use glasses in dim lighting (in a dim room or driving at night) since I am a bit near-sighted.  So I’m pretty sure I missed out on some details just before/during/after totality.  Next time I won’t forget!
  4. Nothing all that interesting happens in the partial phase until you get to the last 30 seconds or so before totality.  That’s when the light just takes a nosedive.   Same for right after totality; within 1 or 2 minutes it was like everything was back to normal.
  5. Totality was AWESOME!  It’s a cliché, but words can hardly describe it.  The partial phase was nothing compared to those 3 minutes.
  6. It was white!  I didn’t expect that, but that is part of the experience that is so jarring and surreal.  The corona is white and the moon of course is black.
  7. The lack of a temperature drop surprised me.  From reading other accounts, some mountain locations saw a good 10 degree or larger drop.  Yet I checked Salem/Madras/John Day and they only saw a small drop in temp.  I’m guessing it’s due to the time of day.  Temperatures are warming dramatically under a hot airmass at 10am on a summer day, so in reality the temperature for many areas just stood still for 90 minutes or so.  If the eclipse would have been at 4pm I bet the drop would have been much larger.
  8. And the biggie…IT WAS GONE TOO FAST.  Immediately afterwards I thought (and said) “that’s it?…I want more!!!

Of course there was lots of hootin’ and hollering as the last of the sun’s light disappeared and 2 minutes of totality began.  You can see it here in John Hoot’s video (and I’m sure many others!)

I noticed people just kept yelling and going nuts in that video through the entire eclipse.  At our location at the airport it was initially loud and the crowd settling down as we all sat there in awe…seems like through much of those two minutes of totality it was relatively quiet.  I suppose larger crowds would produce more noise and at the airport the thousands of people were spread out over the half-mile long string of buildings & aircraft.

TRAFFIC THOUGHTS  A note about the terrible traffic forecasts and those who would criticize media or state/local officials.  In case you don’t know, there were really no travel issues except ON Monday.  Wednesday-Sunday were just fine.  But no one REALLY knew exactly how many people were coming to our state so it was all a guess.  Luckily we won’t have to worry about it because it won’t happen again in our lifetime.  There was (of course) media hype leading into the event, but as mentioned, traffic BEFORE the eclipse was just fine almost everywhere.  I think it’s quite possible that a significant percentage of people decided NOT to head into the path of totality based on those apocalyptic traffic stories.  But what if there were no stories/warnings and another 200,000 decided to head south?  Then someone would have been whining about the state that wasn’t prepared for all the tourists.  You can’t have it both ways.

The hype was well-deserved though heading home.   Just one small example:  the two massive lots of campers/cars at SolarPort in Madras (at the airport) did not empty until our 5pm show began.  That means some waited almost 7 hours JUST TO MOVE THE HALF MILE OUT TO THE HIGHWAY!  Then when I finally left at 7pm, US-26 was still jammed through Madras and moving north to Warm Springs.  We ended up going straight north on US-197 to The Dalles instead which was clear by that time.  But yes, THERE WAS AT LEAST A 9 HOUR TRAFFIC JAM ON US-26 THROUGH MADRAS.   On a somewhat related note…why we still only have one lane each direction from Madras to Government Camp still baffles me in 2017.  It’s one of two travel routes from a metro area with 3 million people to Central Oregon.    Oregon needs some serious road-building for its burgeoning population.  Why is there no freeway between the two locations?  It’s not the lightly populated state I grew up in (unfortunately), but we can’t stick our heads in the sand.  On a lighter note, I didn’t see it, but heard the traffic line to leave formed quickly DURING TOTALITY…talk about needing to “get out the door” first!

How many of you (like me) just HAVE to see it again?  The next convenient and obvious choice is the Eastern USA eclipse coming in 7 years.  Choose either Mazatlan or somewhere between Texas and Maine in April 2024.  I’d stay south…the SW USA often has great early April weather (warm sunshine!) as the Northwest sits in cold showers.  Road trip!  There is one in both 2019 and 2020 in Chile/Argentina, with the 2nd during their summer (December 2020).  That might be the best option weatherwise.  Start planning!

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Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen