The Great American Eclipse is fast approaching – the first total eclipse in nearly a century to move from coast to coast across the U.S. This one will travel more than 3,000 miles over land, where millions of Americans will be able to view it.
It will be a total eclipse in a small swath from the West Coast to the East Coast and a partial eclipse for the entire North American continent. What you see will vary greatly depending on your location.
Get to totality if you can
The eclipse will spread from Oregon around midmorning PT to the South Carolina coast about 90 minutes later, about 2:45 p.m. ET. The relatively small 70-mile-wide path will provide the greatest show. Within this area, a total eclipse will occur as the moon aligns with the sun to an umbra. In this shadow region known as totality, the sun will be 100% covered, and it will become dark.
Scientists like Kelly Beatty, a senior editor with Sky and Telescope magazine who has witnessed a dozen total eclipses, advise that you want to be in that path.
“This is one of those cases where being close isn’t good enough,” he said.
Dave Jones, CEO of StormCenter Communications, whose group is helping states in the path prepare for the eclipse, agrees. “Is 99% coverage good enough? My simple answer is no. Only in totality can you take off your protective glasses and watch with the naked eye. Some people call it a life-changing experience or even spiritual.”
Beatty added, “only in totality can you witness the corona, the hot gases that surround the sun. The stars come out; the temperature drops; you see a bright glow around the horizon, and clouds in the distance can blink out. People are thrilled by the senses around them. When you see it, it’s overwhelming.”
An estimated 12 million people are lucky enough to have a front row seat, living within that narrow path of totality. The largest cities include Nashville, Tennessee; Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina; the north side of Kansas City; and the south side of St. Louis. Here, you will have the best show right in your backyard.
Gridlock traffic is expected
Traffic could become a big issue. Matt Hiebert, assistant director of communications for the Missouri Department of Transportation and the man who is helping coordinate the message for the states in the path of the eclipse, says tens of millions could make the drive.
The estimates are highest for South Carolina, where over 2 million visitors are expected.