Oregon coastal city at ‘double ground zero’ braced for eclipse

DEPOE BAY, Ore. (Reuters) – Oregon’s Depoe Bay is preparing for the first total eclipse to traverse the continental United States in a century as if a natural disaster was bearing down on the small coastal city.

The town, home to 1,500 residents and a single traffic light, is near the spot of land where the total eclipse will first appear on Aug. 21 as it begins cutting a path through 14 states to the Atlantic.

That distinction has raised fears that a tidal wave of visitors will descend on Depoe Bay to get a first glimpse at “totality” a week from Monday.

“Totality” is when the moon passes in front of the sun, blotting out its light and exposing the glowing “corona” around its perimeter. After a little more than two minutes, the phenomenon will end in any given location as the eclipse moves to the east on its coast-to-coast journey.

“We’re a double ground zero,” said Pat O’Connell, who owns a small gallery and gift store facing the rocky sea wall, where thousands are expected to gather when the sky darkens and the eclipse comes in to view. 

Given Depoe Bay’s proximity to a major geological fault line, Mayor Barbara Leff says earthquake and tsunami preparation is second nature to the town’s residents.

“This community has been practicing for a major catastrophe for years and years, and a lot of the eclipse preparations in some ways mirror those disaster preparations,” she said. “We’ve been doing what we’re used to doing and hopefully we are all prepared.”

One of the major challenges, Leff says, is anticipating how many people will show up.

The spectacle is the first in 99 years to span the entire continental United States, the world’s third most populous nation. It will also be the first total solar eclipse visible from any of the lower 48 states since 1979.

The city’s handful of hotels and campgrounds have been sold out for months and crowd estimates range from thousands to hundreds of thousands.

A parking sign for people visiting for the Solar Eclipse is shown in Depoe Bay, Oregon, U.S. August 9, 2017. Picture taken August 9, 2017.Jane Ross

The city held its first eclipse meeting four years ago at its tiny two-room City Hall, a former wooden schoolhouse.

Since serious planning began eight months ago, the city has rented portable restrooms, bought a hundred additional garbage cans, and ordered thousands of protective glasses to be distributed free at the local fire station.

It also has handed out leaflets advising residents to…

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