The 2017 Solar Eclipse: Highlights

11am Wednesday


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:


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!


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

36 Responses to The 2017 Solar Eclipse: Highlights

  1. No more wind readings coming from KCRP. Did their anemometer blow away already?

  2. Daniel Lee says:

    we were at sunnyside county park(horrible park for tent camping) so 1 minute 20 or so of totality which was awesome, but the best part besides totality was how the last few seconds it got very dark very quick, i had my temperature gauge on me but it fell over in the grass but it was 70 when i picked it up a minute before totality and as we were walking back to camp it was down to 66.4. i dont know if being in the grass raised the temp a lil or if we did receive that big of a drop

    • What I want to know is how the temperature can drop so quickly during an eclipse (up to 10 F, I’ve heard). Obviously, blotting out the sun would cause a drop in temps, but why so drastic. That doesn’t happen at night, or does it? I don’t know, does the temperature normally drop sharply after sunset and then slowly decrease until dawn?

  3. W7ENK says:

    Here’s a collection of stills I pulled from all the video I shot. Running 7 cameras isn’t all that hard when 6 of them are pointed at various angles and recording… just set ’em and forget ’em!

    Working on getting timelapses done for each one, plus a final cut of everything together. I’ll add those as I complete them.

    • …Bald mountain star, thats what i are… 😉

    • I like the label saying “Mercury”. One of our party was cursing the “hot pixel” in his camera when later reviewing his photos, until I pointed out that it actually was Mercury.

    • gidrons says:

      I was actually following you through the gorge late Friday night. I turned off at Biggs. It was either you or someone else that has W7ENK as a license plate.

    • W7ENK says:


      Nope, that was me! We left Milwaukie about a quarter after 1am, I just (mostly) hugged the right lane and set the cruise control at 75.

      I guess you didn’t quite go far enough East, but did you happen to see the little orange sliver of a crescent Moon pop above the horizon? I first saw it about the time we hit Boardman, watched it slowly rise all the way through Pendleton. Noticed first light at 4:35am, right as we crested the top of the Blue Mountains.

    • gidrons says:

      Yes, we saw the sliver of the moon rise also. It was a great way to start of a very cool trip.

  4. gidrons says:

    I’m not one to gush, but I’ve been gushing about the eclipse. I had a guy arguing with me that 98% was just as good as totality. I told him that was like comparing a kiss to *******.

  5. Joshua Downtown PDX says:

    Can we talk about the weather please? We are SCREWED. It is already a given that this weekend and early next week are going to be hot. After a couple of days of “cooling” mid-week, it appears that we will have an even hotter next weekend. 100 degrees? Ridiculous 500 mb heights and 850 mb temps. The hot and dry weather has no end in sight after that point. The EURO is on board with the GFS.

    I have seen so many dead or dying trees and plants already after this bone dry and hot summer. It’s going to get much worse before we get any meaningful precipitation. There will be more fires too.

    These are the kind of summers that we apparently need to get used to. I don’t know if I ever can.

    • Paul D says:

      Another heat wave? Yeesh.

      For once I’m out of town when it’s too hot and I’ll be enjoying 70 degree weather around Lake Michigan!

      Not looking forward to those upper 80’s when I return on the 30th.

      It’s definitely time for the heat to disappear for 2017.

    • Roland Derksen says:

      We had a very light shower here before 10am, but that’ll be it for the next few days. Well, if this August continues to stay dry right to the end (in recent years in my location it has ended with a lot of rain), I’ll see my driest July/August period on record.

  6. Boydo3 N. Albany says:

    I’ve seen two before this one. This one was THE BEST! The air was so clear and the sun so crisp during totality that it still is hitting me. We had on the radio (KRVM) that was playing Pink Floyd “dark side of the moon” and as things got close to totality we shut of the music and just watched in silent awe.
    Like you said Mark, the whiteness/brightness as the sun light re-emerged was amazing! Just over too quickly!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I find myself experiencing a type of “survivor’s guilt!” How do you explain to people who thought that 99.2% was in any way similar to 100% that they missed such an opportunity by not travelling for an hour (or less)?

    I watched totality from Monon Lake, and my only regret is that I didn’t climb to the top of Olallie Butte to see the eclipse from the peak of a mountain. I’m curious to know if you can see the full shadow if your 360 degree view is unobstructed.

    My family that I dragged along with me, being initially skeptical about the awesomeness, hasn’t stopped thanking me for bringing them to see totality!

    2024 is already in my plans. Mazatlan sounds awesome, but, climatology would indicate that a clear sky is unlikely. I have family in Oklahoma, which is definitely not as exciting, but the skies should be much clearer. I also have family near Rochester which is in the path, but a clear sky in April there would be a ridiculous expectation.

    I have always wanted to go to Chile. Perhaps December 2020 is the time?

    I suppose the fact that I’m now scheduling future trips thousands of miles away around eclipses is the best evidence I can offer about the amazing experience that this eclipse provided.

    My Grandmother saw a total eclipse in 1925. She was 16, and she never stopped talking about it. Only now can I appreciate what she was saying, and my mother, who is 82, only now appreciates the stories she heard about for so many years. How can you convince people that travelling 100 miles is a must, and that travelling 5,000 miles is worth it as well?

    I hope I get to see the 2045 eclipse. Six minutes of totality would likely be enough to send me to my grave a very happy person!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I agree with all of this, including 2045. Susanville or bust!

    • W7ENK says:

      I had the pleasure of witnessing the eclipse in the company of boringlarry and HIO Phil from atop a 7,000 foot high pile of rocks at the East end of the John Day Valley, SW Baker City.  We had 360 degree views of 70 to over 100 miles. 

      To answer your first question, yes.  Yes, you can see the full shadow 360 degrees around you from the top of a mountain with an unobstructed view.  Not only that, but as that deeply unsettling darkness descends from the sky, you can actually watch as the Moon’s shadow races across the Earth towards you at 1,600 mph, swallowing up ridgelines and filling in valleys with a seemingly unnatural blackness to your West in the moments before the Sun gets blotted out.

    • …that crazy almost halide looking lighting when the sun came back out was pretty cool to see…

    • I did not climb a mountain and see the edge of the shadow like W7ENK did. I did, however, look around the horizon and note the color in the sky across all 360 degrees of horizon.

      I (mostly) had the experience I planned: selecting a remote camp site, away from crowds, reserving it by physically occupying it for a week (thus becoming familiar with the landscape), then watching that landscape become utterly transformed and alien in an instant. Totality is surprisingly brief, and you can’t do (or see) everything.

      Note that in 2024 it will be much harder, perhaps impossible, to get the experience W7ENK did. The shadow of totality will be much larger (about twice the size), and there’s very few high mountains along its path.

  8. Eugene Dave says:

    I watched it with a couple of hundred people in a park near Albany. One of the best parts were all the gasps from the crowd the second totality occurred. It literally made people speechless for a few seconds, then some hootin and hollerin occurred. So breathtaking. I agree with Tyler in that 99% of the show was 20 seconds before and 20 seconds after totality. However, I know that some people here and in real life have some serious regrets about not going. I’m not gonna to mention it again to someone that didn’t go. That’s just like rubbing it in.

  9. chiefWright (Marquam, 375') says:

    Kudos, as usual, to Tyler and his fine skills. I especially like the pix of the teeny, tiny, magnificent sun. And did you see that amazing shot of the climber on Monkey Face???

    Yep, it was:

    Epic (from which after is never the same as before),
    Awesome (struck helpless before something overwhelming),
    Spiritual (a completely different framework than the mundane).

    And how quickly we returned to “normal” after the light returned.

    Except for the traffic. This may sound like the post-facto expert on this, but think about it– Folks from far and wide would have spread out on the way in, but everybody would pile up on the way out. And it was jammed not based on where people were coming from, but where most people were going to.

    I wish I knew how to paste it into the post, but I have a snipshot of the Google traffic map from Oregon to Wyoming. What was running red?

    I-5, Portland to Seattle metro (pop. 3.7m).
    I-15, Pocatello to Salt Lake City metro (pop. 1.1m)
    I-25, Cheyenne to Denver metro (pop. 2.9m)

    At 9:30 PM!!

  10. High Desert Mat says:

    I dropped 9 degrees in my backyard Mark. I live in Redmond so I’m a little surprised there wasn’t a drop like that in Madras too.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Maybe the heat of the asphalt made a difference, radiating some of the morning warmth over that spot. Just an idea

    • oregonalex (Rock Creek, 240 ft) says:

      Here is the eclipse temp chart from my station in Rock Creek. Notice that the temperature stopped rising as soon as the partial eclipse started. Even though the overall drop was only 4F, if you project what the chart would look like without the eclipse, the temperature at 11am would be 10F higher.

      Hope this shows:

    • oregonalex (Rock Creek, 240 ft) says:

      Obviously, I don’t know how to insert pictures.
      If anyone knows, feel free to grab it here:

    • oregonalex (Rock Creek, 240 ft) says:

      🙂 Aha! Now I know. Just put in a html link and Bob’s your uncle.

  11. Tyler Mode in Battle Ground says:

    I can’t say it enough, easily the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen/experienced. So much happens in the 20 seconds before and after totality. The totality itself is amazing with the corona so bright and white!

  12. Mike says:

    Our small “international” group (2 Germans, 1 Californian!!) saw a 6 C (10.8 F) temperature drop in Huntington (near Ontario), about expected in the high desert. Most of the drop was before totality; often, there is an “eclipse wind” which might bring the temps up a bit. If I were going to give any of my talks again, I would have advised the news media to discuss the eclipse in terms of “partial” and “total”. Paul D’s comments were echoed by many, and my brother, who never follows my advice, somehow got himself to Culver and saw it. He now understands why I go to these. A lot of others do, too! The eclipse was about what I expected; I have seen 4 planets at totality, but that was a very wide (250 km) shadow in 1997. The chromosphere (lavender ring made by inner atmosphere of Sun was easily visible just before Third Contact, and I couldn’t look elsewhere.) For those who want to geek out, has a great discussion of the climatology and cloudiness statistics for the 2019 eclipse. As for the southern hemisphere winter, I was in Patagonia for the 2010 eclipse (in July; the most striking one I ever saw) and despite being at 1000 m elevation, it wasn’t too cold. At least there aren’t a lot of time zone changes. FYI, there is one over Antarctica in 2021 (the prior one, same family, in 2003 was great from the air and the coming one’s flight won’t be as far), one that people forget about in 2023 (hybrid, where it is annular at sunrise and sunset and total at noon, due to the Earth’s curvature) from the Indian Ocean, just touching NW Australia, and Indonesia. And 14 October 2023 an annular eclipse goes through Eugene with a center line in Cottage Grove (headed southeast). They aren’t dark, but they are nice to see. I’ll go to one if it is some place I really want to see. I don’t worry about eclipses in the 2030s. I’ll be too old then!

  13. …And here I was, worried that 197 southbound would look like a parking lot all the way out to The Dalles early Monday morning. 😛

    In reality, the highway was easy driving both going down to the hills south of Maupin, AND coming back afterward it was surprisingly easy after the first few miles. So glad I made the plans I did; those 45-60 seconds of blazing white corona are hard to ever forget!

  14. Dean Suhr says:

    We viewed in the Painted Hills – great vista on the ground and in the sky. Love this photo, too:

  15. Paul D says:

    After hearing from people in the “zone”, I am amazed to realize what the 0.6% difference made. I was expecting it to be much darker, but now I know what a difference that 0.6% made. I would put forth the effort to be in the “zone” next time or not even bother going.

    • Yeah, it only reached 98.3% totality here and it was no darker than dusk. I’m beginning to really regret not making the trip down there, even though it would have been a bit of hassle for me (bus, MAX, WES, and then biking from Wilsonville to Hubbard). Heh, maybe I’ll start making plans for a Texas vacation in 2024.

  16. W7ENK says:

    Absolutely, indescribably incredible experience!!

  17. …i’m still stunned… 🙂

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