Excitement builds for April 8 total solar eclipse

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
West Jefferson village employees Taylor Patterson (left), water/sewer clerk, and Jill Sorenson, administrative assistant to the mayor, model solar viewing glasses, also known as eclipse glasses. The village gave away 300 pairs of the glasses in advance of the April 8 total solar eclipse.

(Posted March 18, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

On the afternoon of April 8, parts of Ohio, including parts of Madison County, will experience a total solar eclipse, a rare celestial event that happens when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun, causing the sky to darken as if it were dawn or dusk.

The last time a total solar eclipse passed through Ohio was 1806. Following this year’s event, the next total solar eclipse to pass through the state won’t happen until 2099.

The April 8 solar eclipse will cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. The path of totality runs along a narrow band stretching from Texas to Maine. Viewers outside the path of totality will still see a partial eclipse.

It is estimated that a partial eclipse will start in Ohio around 1:54 p.m., with totality expected in parts of the state between 3:08 and 3:19 p.m. The timing and duration of totality will depend on the location. The eclipse will end in Ohio around 4:26 p.m.

Madison County sits along the outer southeastern edge of the 124-mile wide path of totality through the state. According to NASA’s Eclipse Explorer, an online interactive map that allows users to access eclipse information by zip code, the Plain City area will experience 2 minutes and 13 seconds of totality, the West Jefferson area will experience 32 seconds of totality, and the London area will experience 20 seconds of totality. Mount Sterling sits outside the path of totality, but will still experience 99.7 percent coverage. By comparison, Kenton in Hardin County sits in Ohio’s centerline of totality and will experience 3 minutes and 56 seconds of totality.

Preparing for eclipse travelers
With all that said, Madison County authorities are preparing for an influx of visitors to the area looking to view the eclipse. This could result in increased traffic and increased impacts on restaurants, gas stations, and the like.

“Madison County will probably see an increase in travelers. Every county will be different,” said Madison County Sheriff John Swaney.

Deb Sims, director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, said her office will staff its emergency operations center from 12 to 5 p.m. on April 8, just in case incidents crop up.

“We might have extra traffic with people who are not necessarily from here. It could cause congestion and confusion. Being prepared is a good idea,” Sims said.

Schools closed
Because the potential for increased traffic would coincide with the end of the school day, all schools in Madison County have opted to close for the day, holding no classes for students, citing safety concerns. This includes Jonathan Alder Local Schools, London City Schools, Madison-Plains Local Schools, West Jefferson Local Schools, Tolles Career & Technical Center, Shekinah Christian School, and St. Patrick Catholic School.

“Despite the district being at the southern edge of totality, the area is expected to be heavily impacted by solar tourism on this day,” said London City Schools Superintendent Lou Kramer in announcing the school closure.

St. Patrick School plans to hold eclipse-related lesson on April 5 and send students home with eclipse viewing glasses that day. West Jefferson Local Schools has announced they, too, will be send eclipse viewing glasses home with students on April 5.

Events on eclipse day
To date, the only public event the Madison Messenger knows of scheduled to take place on April 8, the day of the eclipse, is being hosted by Mt. Sterling EyeCare from 2 to 4 p.m. at Mason Park in Mount Sterling. The business will have eclipse viewing glasses available and refreshments, including moon pies and sun chips.

Otherwise, none of Madison County’s municipal government entities plan to hold eclipse-related events on April 8. Instead, town leaders are encouraging residents to experience the eclipse from their homes.

The village of Plain City has created a webpage dedicated to the eclipse. A message on the website states: “We encourage residents to enjoy the eclipse from the comfort of their yards. This provides a safe option for witnessing this remarkable phenomenom without the need to venture out and risk being caught in traffic.”

Giveaways and contests
This doesn’t mean local municipalities aren’t getting into the spirit of the big event. The village of West Jefferson gave away 300 pairs of eclipse viewing glasses the week of March 1.

Plain City did the same, giving away 2,000 eclipse glasses on a first-come first-served basis to Plain City residents only starting March 11 at the village municipal building, 800 Village Blvd. The village also gave away children’s eclipse science boxes, courtesy of COSI.

Plain City also is holding an eclipse coloring contest for Plain City residents who are 10 years old or younger. Submissions are due by 4 p.m. March 21. A coloring sheet can be downloaded at www.plain-city.com/eclipse or picked up at the municipal building or Plain City Public Library, 305 W. Main St. Winners in each age category will get an eclipse prize package.

COSI has supplied the city of London with 500 science kits focused on the eclipse. The city plans to distribute the kits to London City Schools and St. Patrick Catholic School to distribute to students.

Library programs
Madison County’s libraries have jumped on the eclipse as an opportunity to present educational programs.

Plain City Public Library has several programs planned related to the eclipse and space.
On March 19, library visitors are invited to explore space through virtual reality using a variety of apps. Call the library at (614) 873-4912 for an appointment.

On March 20 from 6 to 7 p.m., visitors are invited to bring a plain back shirt to the library to create a solar eclipse t-shirt. The library will provide fabric paint and stencils to make an eclipse design.

On March 21 at 6:30 p.m., the library will host an interactive, educational evening of space-related stories. This program is for children ages 8 and younger and their families.

London Public Library is planning a “Sun Party” for 11 a.m. March 23. Children ages 4 and older are invited to learn about the sun in preparation for the upcoming eclipse. Participants will get to make a pinhole viewer and an ultraviolet detection bracelet. They will learn how to use household items to study eclipses.

Additionally, the library will begin distributing free eclipse glasses on March 25 with a limit of two sets of glasses per household.

Hurt/Battelle Memorial Library in West Jefferson is hosting “Great American Eclipse,” a program presented by the Whiz Bang Science Show, at 11 a.m. March 25. Participants will learn about solar eclipses and the history and science behind them. All ages are welcome. Attendees will receive solar eclipse glasses after the program.

Mount Sterling Public Library is holding eclipse-themed evenings at 6 p.m. March 21 and March 26. The fun, educational programs are family-friendly.

Information Resources
For more information about the April 8 total solar eclipse, including viewing safety tips, visit the Ohio Emergency Management website, https://ema.ohio.gov/, or NASA’s website, https://science.nasa.gov/eclipses/future-eclipses/eclipse-2024/.

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