Retired Cloverdale Unified School District science teacher Lynn Anderson saw his first total solar eclipse in 1998, from the deck of a cruise ship in the Caribbean. His eighth will come Aug. 21 when he travels to eastern Oregon for a solar eclipse that will be the first to cover the contiguous 48 states in nearly a century.
As the day nears, he’ll join millions of people traveling to be in the “path of totality” — the shadowy swath of about 70 miles where the moon will fully block out the sun, turning the sky a dusty blue, making stars visible and confusing animals’ sleep patterns.
“I tell people that the only other experience in my life that has had as much emotional, spiritual, whatever you want to call it — impact — was being in the delivery room when my daughter was born,” said the 71-year-old Healdsburg resident, who has traveled to five continents to see the eclipses. “You study all the books, you look at the videos, you talk with people, you go to the classes. You know what’s going to happen. But when it happens, it’s amazing. You can’t go back.”
Sonoma County residents will be privy to a partial eclipse and can expect about 80 percent of the sun to be obscured just before 10:15 a.m. that Monday. Steve Smith, president of the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association, which operates Sugarloaf Ridge State Park’s Robert Ferguson Observatory, warned that even with 80 percent of the sun obscured, the light can still burn retinas.
“The issue is, people will be tempted to look at it, but retinas don’t have any pain sensors, so the damage will be done and you won’t realize until later,” he said.
To help prevent such retinal damage, both the observatory and Sonoma County Library have free safe-viewing glasses available to the public. The library ordered 2,500 pairs available now — no library card needed — for its branches until supplies run out. And the RFO will be handing out pairs at both of its Aug. 21 eclipse viewing locations: the Sugarloaf observatory, where visitors will be able to peek at the sun through a solar telescope, and at Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square, where volunteers will have more solar telescopes and be on hand to answer questions from the public.
In Sonoma County, Smith said, residents are likely to notice a change in the light, but it won’t be as dramatic as the path of totality.
On the square, volunteers will show people how to use cardboard with punched holes to safely see the eclipse projected onto the ground, and a sixth-grade class from Kenwood Elementary School will be doing a citizen science experiment measuring the temperature change as the moon’s shadow tracks at almost 3,000 mph across the Earth.
Oregon is in the path of totality, and the state’s Office of Emergency Management expects an additional 1 million people to flood its roads.
Oregon’s governor has authorized the deployment of National Guard soldiers to aid first responders.
The Federal Highway Administration is calling it an “event for which there has been no recent precedent,” and in a fact sheet disseminated to local departments of transportation in Oregon, warned of the need for advanced planning because of the mass influx of visitors and their sudden exodus “as there is no reason to remain after the period of totality has passed.”