Two months from today Union County will experience a total solar eclipse, and we have one question for you: WE’RE PLANNING… ARE YOU?
You may be thinking, don’t stare at the sun and get some eclipse glasses – plan done. That is a great start and was honestly my initial reaction three years ago when the Ohio EMA and the Union County EMA first looped us in. But then, our skillful EMA partners shared lessons learned from areas in Kentucky and Oregon who experienced a similar event back in 2017. And we quickly realized we should give this event some thought, and we’re hoping you will, too.
Here’s the Scoop: A total solar eclipse is a rare and spectacular event in the US. Only 21 total solar eclipses have crossed the lower 48 states in the entire existence of the United States. The last total solar eclipse visible in Ohio was in 1806. The next total solar eclipse in Ohio will be in the year 2099.
Union County is along the Path of Totality, meaning the sun will be completely obscured by the moon, plunging the daytime sky into darkness for several minutes. Our friends to the west and north of us in areas like Logan, Hardin and Wyandot Counties are on or near the centerline of the eclipse and will have even more time of total darkness.
Possible Impact on Union County: Because of our location within the Path of Totality, the use of US 33, RT 4 & RT 31 as main arteries for potential eclipse travelers, and given that we are an easy drive from Columbus (who is just outside the path of totality), there is potential for a significant increase in traffic and visitors headed to or through Union County for the eclipse. Heavy traffic creates the potential for gridlock and long delays in the afternoon/evening of Apr. 08 as eclipse viewers head home immediately after the eclipse passes. In this scenario, your normal 15-minute trip home or to the grocery store could result in frustration or a standstill.
What Are We Planning: EMA, law enforcement, EMS, city and county road crews and engineers, the Union County Health Department, and many other partners have been meeting regularly to create plans for the day. While we can’t prevent heavy traffic and all the headaches that can come with it, our first responders and city/county teams are working to mitigate its impacts on life safety response and other essential operations. Here at the Union County Health Department, we are working to educate about temporary campgrounds that may crop up, pop up food vendors, and protecting septic systems and wells from invited or uninvited eclipse parking.
Tips for Your Plan: The potential for a large number of visitors to our county could make things difficult if you are not prepared. But by taking some time to plan ahead and prepare, you can enjoy this special day. We are encouraging residents to prepare for the day like they would a possible snow storm. Top off gas tanks, grab groceries, refill medications and other necessary supplies a couple days before Apr. 08 to avoid possible traffic congestion. The week before the eclipse, check in on a friend or neighbor who might need some extra help and see if you can pick up groceries or medicines during the week before Apr. 08. If you have doctor’s appointments in Columbus or neighboring towns, consider rescheduling for another day.
And yes, as was our and likely your initial reaction, get some eclipse glasses so you can safely enjoy this rare and beautiful celestial event. As mother says, it is never safe to look directly at the sun. Even during a total solar eclipse, the sun will reappear suddenly and quickly. Only special eclipse glasses will protect your eyes.
Time to Brainstorm: What are some things you can do ahead of time to be comfortable and prepared for a winter storm, or in this case, the Apr. 08 total eclipse? This email will help you think of things like:
- How can I view the eclipse safely? Can I use my old eclipse glasses from a few years ago?
- What are things I can do now to prepare? Do I have enough medication, diapers, etc., so I don’t have to “run to the store” on the day of the eclipse?
- I’m thinking about allowing some paid camping or eclipse parking. Am I prepared?
Where’s the party?
Our friends at the Union County Chamber of Commerce have been keeping a list of all of the parties and gatherings happening during the eclipse. Check out their site to see the listing.
Other resources for the eclipse: