We’re just a few days away from the August 21 solar eclipse, and the islands – as well as the rest of the country – seem to have Eclipse Fever.
Local stores and national chairs report being sold out of the eclipse viewing glasses, “solar eclipse” is now one of the top searches in Google, and many folks are wondering where will be the best spot to catch the show.
The good news is that if you’re on Hatteras or Ocracoke Islands, you have a pretty great seat for the Monday afternoon event.
What You’ll See and When
The islands are outside of the “path of totality” – a 70 mile wide and 3,000 mile long path that will experience roughly two minutes of total darkness. This path extends from Oregon to South Carolina, and the only part of North Carolina that’s included in the path of totality is a relatively small section of the western part of the state.
But regardless of where you land on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, expect to experience 89-90% coverage. This means that the majority of the sun will be covered by the moon, and while there won’t be the experience of total darkness, it will nevertheless be impressive (provided there are no clouds blocking the way.)
Don’t have glasses? You’re not alone.
Local stores that were carrying glasses have sold out, and the Dare County libraries are reporting that their supplies are depleted as well.
But there are some other options out there for viewers. Crafty folks can try their hand at creating pinhole projectors and other projection techniques which are a safe, indirect viewing option for observing an image of the sun. (NASA has a few DIY ideas on their website here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-viewing.)
In addition, several locations along the Outer Banks will have “viewing parties” with glasses while supplies last, such as the Lee Robinson General Store in Hatteras village, and Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head.
Whatever you do, don’t take a risk and stare at the sun. Optometrists all across the country have been scrambling to warn people not to look directly at the eclipse, and safety warnings are everywhere about faux eclipse glasses that may not have the required solar filters. For more info on safety – which includes tips on viewing – NASA is once again a great source. See https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety for info, and remember that NASA will also be live streaming the event in case you’re stuck inside and don’t want to miss a thing.
Why is Everyone so Crazy Over the Eclipse?
There’s a lot of hype surrounding August 21’s event, but it’s fairly justified. This is the first total solar eclipse to occur in the United States in 99 years, and for most North Carolinians, this will be the best chance to see a solar eclipse in their lifetime. (Although another solar eclipse will be heading our way on April 8, 2024, which will be visible in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Canada.)
Anything Else to Know?
Be careful when travelling during the eclipse, especially if you plan to go to the western part of the state.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that seven counties in the far west – Cherokee, Graham, Clay, Swain, Macon, Jackson, and Transylvania – are in the path of totality and will experience very high traffic volumes as visitors head to these areas to see the show.
While most safety precautions by the NCDOT are occurring solely in the western part of the state, it is nevertheless a good idea to watch for slower than usual traffic locally as folks do a double take when the sun almost disappears.
For more tips from NCDOT on being prepared – especially if you have any plans to travel to Western North Carolina – visit https://www.ncdot.gov/newsroom/2017eclipse/.