Schools in the St. Louis area have announced that they will be closed Monday August 21, for the Total Solar Eclipse. (Yes East Coast, school will already be back in session for some.)
The Fox News affiliate in St. Louis reports that several school districts have voted to cancel class because the districts cannot safely dismiss students at anytime during the eclipse. There’s also some concern about traffic. It’s estimated that as many as one million people are expected to travel to the St. Louis area to watch the rare event.
Some other districts in the St. Louis area have opted to stay in school and have purchased safety glasses for every student so they can safely watch the eclipse.
For most Americans, this will be their first opportunity to view a total solar eclipse. The last one to pass over the U.S. mainland was 1979. The 1979 eclipse was only visible in totality in the Pacific Northwest.
The August 21, 2017 eclipse is being dubbed by many as the “Great American Eclipse” because of its unique accessibility to a large population. It’s estimated that 200 million people are within a days drive to the path of totality.
Astronomer and “eclipse chaser” Glenn Schneider predicts that larger cities in the path of the eclipse will be able to handle the influx of eclipse watchers, but smaller communities need to prepare for people driving into the path of totality.
“It’s been up around 10 million or so, depending upon who’s doing the estimation.” says Schneider.
“That can get concentrated into local pockets, where the weather is good or where people think the infrastructure might support it. I don’t think there’s going to be as much of problem in larger cities in the path of totality, but the smaller areas may experience real problems with gasoline shortages and road congestion and cell phone systems that just can’t handle those type of crowds.”
Schneider says the good news is that community planners and mangers have caught wind of this quite early on and a lot of that was helped by professional outreach through the American Astronomical Society and other groups informing local communities that, ‘Hey this is coming!’.
“Nobody is trying to be a doomsayer here, but the reality is you take a small town population of 6000 or so and you put a 100,000 people in it, it can stress the capability and infrastructure.” said Schneider.
In a recent interview, Schneider said, “There is no photograph, no video, no digital capture of a total solar eclipse that is like seeing it imaged on your own retinas.”
The path of totality will be approximately 60 miles wide and Schneider said those within driving distance to the path should not squander the opportunity to witness it with their own eyes.