COLUMBIA GETS A RARE chance Monday to enjoy one of Mother Nature’s coolest magic tricks.
At 2:41 p.m., the moon will slide between the Midlands and the sun, pitching the region into near total darkness. While other areas of the country will experience the same celestial phenomenon, Columbia will have one of the longest periods of total eclipse, at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. We’ll also be one of the last U.S. cities that day to see the dark side of the moon.
A dozen or so viewing parties have been organized for Columbia-area residents to experience the eclipse with others. Our minor baseball team, the Fireflies, has even scheduled a game for that afternoon, with play halted as the total eclipse nears.
According to predictions, a lot of tourists will join us to experience the eclipse. Up to 600,000 people are expected to travel to the Midlands by Monday. Their visit presents a great opportunity for us to show off our home, including the bustling Vista, an always vibrant Lake Murray and the charm of our smaller towns.
Our visitors may also create some headaches. Traffic could be gridlocked, mobile phone service may be slow, lines at restaurants and gas stations may be long, and other inconveniences may develop.
Everyone must be patient and prepared on Monday. Anyone planning to travel to attend a viewing party or for any other reason should allot extra time to get there. Make sure your gas tank is full and that your mobile phone is fully charged. Carry a mobile phone charger just in case.
Despite the potential problems, let’s give our visitors a warm Midlands welcome. Many will be first-time Columbia visitors who never would have visited except for the eclipse. If we leave a good impression, they might come back and spend more money at our restaurants, hotels, retail shops, and elsewhere.
Better yet, they may also tell their friends and relatives to visit.
Most importantly, we urge everyone to safely enjoy the eclipse on Monday. Be extra careful to protect your eyesight, using only proper eclipse glasses. Make sure your children are careful as well. The eclipse will be special, but it shouldn’t cost anyone their vision.
For information from NASA on how to safely view the eclipse, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety. For a list from the American Astronomical Society of reputable makers of solar filters and viewers, visit eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
The eclipse will be quite a show, and Columbia is lucky to be in its path. We can all enjoy it by showing patience, welcoming our guests, and being careful.