Ready or not….here it comes!
A lot has been written about the upcoming Great American Eclipse, coming up on August 21. A seventy mile wide swath centered on a line starting at Depoe Bay, Oregon and exiting at McClellanville, South Carolina will see the sun totally blocked by the moon.
The entire journey of the shadow across our nation will take a mere 90 minutes. Day will become night in the path of totality, with stars appearing when they normally wouldn’t. Here at Prineville Reservoir, we are outside of the path of totality, but the city of Prineville to our north is within the path…as shown by the dots on the map below.
We plan on positioning ourselves in the path of totality and are still weighing our options. We’ll let you know how it all works out. The purpose of this post is to alert those of you who may not be aware of a few tips about the event, so as to prepare if you plan on trying to see it. Experiencing this from Oregon, we will address it from that perspective. We completely understand that some people may have little interest in dealing with these crowds.
Our first awareness of the eclipse was when I read an online piece about it last year. In it, I remember the author mentioning that NASA said the best chance in the nation at a cloudless sky was in the high dessert town of Madras, Oregon, about 20 or so miles up the road from Prineville. The town of 6,000 has a nice airport with a 5000 foot and 2700 foot set of runways, a Safeway and a Thriftway, a KFC, McDonalds, and a Dairy Queen.
Toss in four or five gas stations and a bevy of small businesses and that about sums it up. US-97 runs north and south through the town, with a few smaller highways coming in from other directions. Well, as awareness of the eclipse has grown, Madras began to prepare for the onslaught of visitors…as far back as 2015. Estimates are for 100,000 people to descend on the town, but that number could be conservative. The FAA has capped the airport at 400 planes, and those spots are long spoken for. Many are reported to be famous folks flying up from LA. The normally uncontrolled field is even bringing in a portable control tower.
Farmers are mowing their fields and have reserved camping spots for well over $100 a night. Prineville will be home to a festival that officials are capping at 30,000 people….and that’s just the festival. Many more will be pouring into town from all over the world. It’s going to be fun, crazy, scary, all rolled up in a few amazing days. And once the sun comes back out, everyone is going to want to leave at the same time!
If you attempt to show up the day of the eclipse, you stand a good chance of ending up in a traffic jam and missing it. Campsites and lodging sites have been sold out for years. Also, just pulling off the roads here is easier said than done.
ODOT has trained workers in push, pull, drag training; meaning if someone is blocking the road, the road crew will move it by any method needed, so emergency vehicles can get through. The roads around central Oregon have steep shoulders and drop offs, so pulling over isn’t a great option. Parking in dry grass could start a wildfire, which is a huge concern in these parts. Not only that, smoke from a wildfire could obscure the eclipse! And watch where you step, as there are rattlesnakes here. Also, remember that services such as restrooms, groceries, gasoline, drinking water, and cell service will be overloaded, as will the power grid. Self contained RV’s hold an advantage in this regard, so be sure to stock up your supplies and top off your fuel and water tanks way ahead of time. Prineville officials are expecting people to start coming in on the 15th, but we’ve talked to one camper who is already here for the event. The state is gearing up as if this will be a natural disaster, and for all intents and purposes, it could be!
Ok, so enough with the doomsday dialogue. 😎
If the majority of people are patient and respectful of others, the Great American Eclipse promises to be an unforgettable experience. Many of you will want to be as far away from this as possible…and that is perfectly ok and understandable. But if this interests you and there is any way for you to get into the path of totality, by all means, do it. Veteran eclipse watchers say that close is not close enough! If you are wondering what you could possibly see that would be worth all of the trouble, Eclipse2017.org explains it as being much more than the moon covering the sun. It’s the veil of blackness that hits you at 3000 miles an hour, the 360 degree orange glow on the horizon, the air cooling, the stars and planets appearing, and the adrenaline rush of being a part of it all. Many people who have seen one in the past say it is the most beautiful thing they have ever experienced.
Above all, have fun and if you’re up for an adventure, give it your best effort to get yourself into the path of totality! This is going to be an amazing event…one you will remember for the rest of your life.
Where will you be during the Great American Eclipse?
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