Eclipse minus 1,000 days

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It’s November 25, 2014. Thoughts of the holidays are everywhere because it’s exactly one month until Christmas. But that’s not what’s on my mind.

This sequence shows the progression of a total solar eclipse. It's what anyone in the path of totality August 21, 2017, will see if they use an approved solar filter. // Ben Cooper/
I’m currently on vacation. My wife and I are in St. Joseph, Missouri, visiting her parents for the week. This morning, I appeared as a guest on the morning show at KFEQ, a radio station here in St. Joe located at 680 on the AM dial. In about an hour, I’ll be speaking to the Downtown Rotary Club. And Saturday night, rather than experiencing some authentic Kansas City blues at one of the nearby clubs, I presented a talk to the Astronomical Society of Kansas City. Wait a minute. I did say I was on vacation, right? What’s with all the astronomy-related stuff? Actually, it’s a bit more specific. It’s eclipse-related stuff.

As you might have heard, a total solar eclipse will wash over the United States on August 21, 2017. Because the dark part of the Moon’s shadow passes directly over St. Joseph, I will be here conducting a huge public event at Rosecrans Memorial Airport. Well, as I was preparing my talk for the Rotary Club, I wondered how far off the eclipse would be. It actually shocked me to learn that the event takes place exactly 1,000 days from today. Or, as I’ve started referring to it, as only 1,000 days from today.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was telling people the eclipse was 1,500 days off. Wow, the last 500 days really seem to have flown by. If the next 500 days — and the 500 that follow — blaze by as quickly, we may have a problem.

I’m not worried about individuals making plans, taking days off, picking a location, etc. No, what concerns me is that, so far, officials in many of the cities and towns that lie along the center line haven’t even started thinking about the problems (we could refer to them as “opportunities,” but not just yet) that will befall these prime locations if they don’t start to prepare for the big event.

I won’t go into detail here, but I’ve started comparing what might happen as eclipse day draws nigh to a zombie apocalypse — but with a few major differences. You see, zombies don’t need food; they don’t need fuel; they don’t require good roads, or lodging, or health care. But humans do. And if the estimates of the number of people that are planning to head to the path of totality are even remotely accurate, every community blessed by the Moon’s dark shadow needs to start getting ready now.

That’s why my time this week isn’t all for family, fun, and food. I want the prime eclipse locations to be ready. Especially St. Joseph.

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