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Jeb Bladine: Listen to the experts; ‘get thee to the path’

Solar eclipse fever is rising. When the dusk settles on Aug. 21, will your experience live up to the hype?

Here is some important eclipse-watching information, but first, a few statistics from the exact science of eclipse analysis:

Somewhere on earth, a total solar eclipse occurs about once every 18 months, but it has been 99 years since one spanned the U.S. coast-to-coast. Oregon’s most recent total solar blackout, in 1979, lasted nearly 2 minutes in McMinnville.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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This month, every American could see at least a partial eclipse, but only people inside the 70-mile-wide “path of totality” will experience the full wonder of a total eclipse. That phenomenon will cross the Pacific Coast traveling 2,955 miles per hour at 10:16 a.m., centered just north of Depoe Bay. Eclipse speed will have dropped to 1,500 mph when it hits the East Coast 99 minutes later, just north of Charleston, SC.

An estimated 12.25 million Americans live inside the path of totality. But 47 million people live within 100 miles of the path, and 127.5 million live within 300 miles. 
Warning: Residents of Carlton, Yamhill, Dundee, Newberg and the entire Portland metropolitan area live outside the path of totality. Their 99-plus percent eclipse will be disappointing in comparison.

“Our task,” wrote eclipse expert Dan McGlaun, “is to convince people … they simply must travel into the path in order to see one of the most spectacular things they will ever see in their life … Just as the person who only smells the meal outside the steakhouse remains hungry … those who observe the eclipse from outside the path of totality (will) end the day wondering what, indeed, all the fuss was about.”

“There is no in-between,” wrote another expert. “When it comes to eclipses, close isn’t close enough.”

When that reality strikes home, thousands of Portland-area residents likely will drive here that Monday morning. Fog or clouds at the coast would send another onslaught of humanity our way. The result could be truly epic traffic jams on I-5, Highways 99W and 18, and even side roads.

Be early, special glasses in hand, at a spot with guaranteed eastern visibility. The total eclipse will last only a few seconds at the edge of the path; 57 seconds at Evergreen Museum ($5); 80 seconds at the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser (Maysara Winery, $100); and just shy of 2 minutes at Eola Hills Wine Cellars outside Rickreall, where multi-day packages cost as much as $2,900 per person.

As Dan McGlaun implores, “Get thee to the path!”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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