Random Thursday: The Eclipse Mania Edition

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.
Graphic: Black rectangle with white circle in the middle
Artist rendering of total solar eclipse (not drawn to scale)

Howdy, buckaroos. Yeah, I know it’s Pi Day, but that is so 3/14/1592 and we have bigger ROUSes to battle.

Remember the eclipse thing I briefly mentioned a few days ago? Of course you do, although probably not because I mentioned it. Anyway, we’re now only 25 days away from this apparently life-changing event, according to my good friends over at the How Many Days Until…? calculator, and people are frankly already losing their minds over it.

Multiple counties in Texas that fall within the almost-mythical Path of Totality (“PoT”) — the geographic area in which the total eclipse of the sun can be viewed — have already declared states of emergencies due to the expected massive influx of thrill seekers sporting weird eyeware.

Meme (in Spanish): They are ready for the eclipse, sitting in lawn chairs, holding beer, and wearing welders hoods
Ja, ja, ja…

This website has identified 125 Texas cities, towns, and rural communities that lie within the PoT, ranging from Carta Valley in Edwards County (just northeast of Del Rio), with an estimated population of 12 to San Antonio with a population of around 1.5 million. The list of cities shows the time of day the totality phase starts, and the duration of totality (the Hill Country burgs of Ingram and Vanderpool have the longest duration (4 minutes, 26 seconds); my residence in Horseshoe Bay is in the Top 40 at 4 minutes, 17 seconds. (Note that the list of towns on the site is actually a tiny percentage of all the populated communities in Texas within the PoT. I’m not sure how they decided which ones to list and which to omit. I really think they should have included Zephyr, which is on the far west edge of the PoT, so they could say “we have them [mostly] all, from A to Z.”)

By the way, someone in France has done us a favor by creating this online resource that has the most comprehensive information about every given spot in the world along the path of the eclipse. You can enlarge the map to zoom in on your area of interest, then click or tap on a specific location to pop up a window showing everything you need or want to know about the eclipse at that point (and then some), including times for the start and ending of the partial eclipse, start and ending of the total, and the precise time of the “maximum eclipse.”

One caveat: Don’t rely on the “Time (UT)” column without clicking on the tiny clock icon on the left side of the window to set the time zone for the point you’re interested in.

This will be an extremely useful resource if you plan to photograph the process. If you find the website useful, why not throw a couple of Euros to the developer via PayPal, Xavier M. Jubier, who provides this good stuff for free.

Note that the major cities in Texas are only partially in the PoT. For example, the portion of Austin that may see the totality will experience it for less than 2 minutes, and San Antonio will get only a few seconds longer than that.

The preceding website also has a helpful map showing the PoT in Texas, along with some facts about the viewing experience at various spots along the PoT. In total, Texas has 478 miles of PoT “centerline,” making it the state with the most opportunity to experience the total eclipse…hence the expectation of an influx of people from around the world.

To date, the counties of Kendall (Boerne), Kerr (Kerrville), Bell (Killeen, Temple), Travis (unincorporated areas), and Burnet (Marble Falls, Burnet) have preemptively declared states of emergency, warning citizens about such apocalyptic events as ATMs running out of cash, disrupted cell service due to usage overload, traffic jams for miles (especially in the hours and days following the eclipse when all the visitors return home), cats speaking in tongues, and disoriented avians reenacting scenes from The Birds.

We locals have been warned not to schedule appointments on the 8th and not to wait until the last minute to refill critical prescriptions, gas up our cars, or buy toilet paper and drinking water (but at the same time, avoid panic buying…so, which is it, huh?).

Interestingly (to me, anyway), Burnet’s next-door neighbor to the west, and my county of residence, Llano County, is rejecting the emergency declaration idea, claiming that a preemptive declaration is dumb. OK, that’s not a direct quote, but it’s probably what was running through the county’s emergency management coordinator when he said that the eclipse is “an event, not an emergency.”

Meme (in Spanish): How the eclipse should be vs what we actually see (clouds)
¡Qué sorpresa!

Of course, there’s a possibility that the eclipse could be a bust in Texas, depending on the weather. There’s a very real chance of cloudy weather on that date, at least according to these meteorlogical prognosticators, who say the best odds for clear skies are in south Texas, and diminishing as one travels north and east along the PoT. You folks in Dallas might be in for a disappointment.

OTOH, there’s a snowball’s chance in the Great Kiln of Hades that any of those guys know what they’re talking about this far in advance.

Regardless of how things turn out, it’s going to be an interest few days in early April, and we plan to have a lot of popcorn on hand as we watch the chaos unfold. And it’s important to remember that even if you don’t get to see the “real” eclipse, there are other ways to replicate the experience.

Meme (in Spanish): I thought I was watching the eclipse; it was my neighbor's satellite dish
De nuevo, ja, ja, ja. *tos*

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    1. Max, I guess the saving grace of a total is that even if it’s too cloudy to see the actual eclipse, it will still get really dark at an abnormal time of day, and as “they” say…that’s not nothing. 😄

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