Oregon Solar Eclipse: Your FAQs, our answers

The solar eclipse will happen August 21, 2017

This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. (AP Photo, File)
This March 9, 2016 file photo shows a total solar eclipse in Belitung, Indonesia. (AP Photo, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Earth moves. The moon moves. The sun is stable. Sometimes the moon gets inbetween the Earth and the sun and — bingo! — it’s an eclipse.

Monday’s eclipse that transverses the continental United States is the first of its kind in 99 years. More than a million people are expected to come to Oregon for this nearly-once-in-a-lifetime event.

Here’s a quick guide to the most frequently asked questions about the eclipse, plus some lesser but interesting questions.

Is the eclipse only visible in the path of totality?

This graphic shows the path of totality for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 (NationalEclipse.com)
This graphic shows the path of totality for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 (NationalEclipse.com)

No. In fact, the entire United States will be able to see the solar eclipse. But only those in the 70-mile wide “path of totality” will be able to see the full celestial show. Regardless, it’s very rare and very cool.

People in Portland will see 99.4% of the total eclipse

What’s the weather supposed to be?

KOIN 6 Meteorologist Joseph Dames said confidence is high with the current forecast for cloud coverage. It will be minimal for the Willamette Valley and Central/Eastern Oregon.

But it will likely come down to Monday morning for cloud coverage on the Central coast.

Smoke in the sky from the various wildfires may also cause some interference with viewing in Central Oregon — but not much.

The forecast as of Friday shows Oregon and Idaho as most promising to have clear sky views, while South Carolina is the most likely to find the sun and moon blocked by clouds. The National Weather Service also is optimistic about good viewing from St. Louis to Nashville.

Do I really need to wear those glasses?

KOIN 6 Meteorologist Claire Anderson and anchor Jeff Gianola wear eclipse glasses, August 18, 2017 (KOIN)
KOIN 6 Meteorologist Claire Anderson and anchor Jeff Gianola wear eclipse glasses, August 18, 2017 (KOIN)

Yes. Looking at the eclipse minutes before or after the totality without proper protection can cause permanent eye damage.

When you’re buying glasses, make sure they are the right kind. Shining a light through your glasses or looking for the ISO 123112-2 mark on the side isn’t enough sometimes to ensure your glasses are safe for viewing.

But if you don’t have those glasses, you can make your own viewer. It’s really easy: a cereal box, white paper, tin foil and you’re good to go. Here’s how you do it.

Can I watch the eclipse in selfie mode?

Yes. Jim Todd, the OMSI director of Space Science Education, told KOIN 6 News, ”Yes, you can. Selfie is fine. You are not looking at the sun in that fashion and you are taking a snapshot really.”

Is traffic going to be bad?

Oregon State Police tweeted this picture of heavy traffic congestion on Highway 97 NB in LaPine, Wednesday, August 16 2017. (OSP)
Oregon State Police tweeted this picture of heavy traffic congestion on Highway 97 NB in LaPine, Wednesday, August 16 2017. (OSP)

Yes. Though the eclipse visitors began arriving in droves on Thursday, traffic in the region was moving smoothly on Friday. But as more visitors arrive and the eclipse gets closer, you can bet the roads are going to be packed.

TripCheck: real time updates

Police are concerned about the traffic impacts so much that ODOT said they plan to stop construction projects on highways and shut down weigh stations to allow emergency responders and police to stage there. That will allow them to reach drivers in an emergency quicker.

And get an old-fashioned paper map or print one to have with you. Cell phone mapping systems will likely get overwhelmed with everyone on the road using them.

What should I know about camping during the eclipse?

The Oregon State Parks banned open flames and campfires across the state — including all beaches.

A wildfire burns just outside of Sister, Ore., Friday Aug. 18, 2017. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via AP)

Under the current fire ban, campfires and open flames are not allowed. The ban includes briquettes, tiki style torches and candles. Only fuel sources that can be turned off and on instantly — like propane stoves — are allowed right now. However, state officials said no propane fire rings are allowed at The Cove Palisades State Park and Silver Falls State Park.

Wildfires, in fact, are one of the biggest concerns for emergency planners.

“With that many people potentially gathering on our public lands it could leave a significant mark,” said Traci Weaver with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forestry Service. “We are asking people to follow the ‘leave no trace standards,’ to pack it in and pack it out.”

And don’t camp on the beach. First, it’s illegal, but secondly there may be 9-foot tides. Not a good place to be at high tide.

What emergency preparations are in place?

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown mobilized the National Guard to help with traffic flow and other emergencies that may arise. Officials from Travel Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation the Oregon Office of Emergency Management , Oregon State Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry all took part in the statewide planning.

Because the traffic is expected to be so heavy and snarled, ambulances may have a difficult time getting through. That’s why it may be a busy day for LifeFlight pilots, who will use helicopters to get to really tough spots.

Hospitals have also made emergency plans, reshuffling staffs and schedules, repositioning resources and stocking up on supplies.

Are there a lot of science experiments going on?

(L-R) Olea Stevens, Harmony Ewing and Rihana Mungin with the PSU Eclipse Balloon team. (Courtesy picture from July 2016)
(L-R) Olea Stevens, Harmony Ewing and Rihana Mungin with the PSU Eclipse Balloon team. (Courtesy picture from July 2016)

Yes. NASA is coordinating science experiments coast-to-coast. In this area, some Portland State University students are part of a nationwide-network of eclipse scientists across the country who will be launching high-altitude weather balloons on August 21.

The 4 balloons from PSU will be equipped with GPS tracking systems and cameras during the upcoming solar eclipse. Three of the 4 balloons are part of the students’ senior project. The other balloon, designed to reach 100,000 feet in the air, will be part of the Eclipse Ballooning Project funded by NASA, including 55 colleges and school teams from Oregon through South Carolina.

Will animals freak out during the eclipse?

“I don’t think were going to see any anxious behavior on the part of animals because again, this is just a small wrinkle in the fabric of time and they’ve evolved over long time periods,” Oregon Zoo Director Don Moore said. “We see darkness during thunderstorms and we don’t see a lot of change in animal behavior at that time so we’ll see what happens.”

Have more questions?

Here’s the complete KOIN coverage for the Oregon Solar Eclipse.

So sit back, relax, put your glasses on and enjoy the show!

This eclipse graphic was put together by the National Weather Service, August 2017
This eclipse graphic was put together by the National Weather Service, August 2017