By David Kennard
The eclipse that will darken the sky on the afternoon of Aug. 21 promises to be a spectacular event -- if it’s not raining.
Not to throw a wet blanket on this celestial event that has seen more buildup than Y2K, but there’s a pretty good chance that if you’re reading this column, you’re going to see a cloudy sky when you look up through your cardboard eclipse glasses.
As of Sunday afternoon, The National Weather Forecast for Aug. 21 includes a 40 percent chance of precipitation, which means cloudy weather. But if you recall last October, forecasters were still saying Hurricane Matthew was going to blow out to sea several days before it pounded us here in the Lowcountry.
It’s still just a little too early to say whether or not we’re going to get a good view of this thing.
However, I hope we do … and so do all the restaurants, hotels and airlines from Lincoln Beach,Oregon; to Casper, Wyoming; to Mokane, Missouri; to Bonneau, South Carolina. The folks along that path -- and about 35 miles north and south of there -- will witness something most will never see again.
For about 2 minutes and 3 seconds, the view of the sun will be completely blocked by the moon.
Where we are, the moon’s eclipse of the sun will begin at about 1:16 p.m. on that day and last nearly three hours from partial eclipse to total eclipse and then partial eclipse again.
Assuming it’s not raining that day, it should be a pretty cool sight, similar to the twilight hours of each day. The brightest stars will be visible, frogs and crickets will begin chirping. Roosters will crow. Toilets will flush backwards. Democrats will praise Trump. OK, I made those last two things up.
For real, though some things are certainly going to happen during eclipse-agedon when the sun vanishes. It's time you begin preparing for what some are comparing to the Burning Man Festival for the common folk.
Here is a quick list of things you should or should not do.
First, don’t look at the sun. Even during the two-plus minutes of totality, it’s dangerous. Remember the advice of your mother or your fifth-grade science teacher, don’t look at the sun.
For 99 cents you can order a pair of eclipse sunglasses online. You can also stop by your local hardware store and pick up a No. 14 welder’s glass. Do this now, supplies will sell out.
Second, pay attention to a warning from The South Carolina Emergency Management Division: If you are driving during the eclipse, KEEP MOVING. Do not stop your vehicle along interstates or any roadway.
Please follow those instructions. Every police department, fire department and safety official in the county has already been briefed about idiot drivers who will no doubt strain their neck to see the eclipse while driving.
If you miss it, don't worry; the next total solar eclipse will visit the U.S. on April 8, 2024, but you'll have to travel to Arkansas to see it. The next total eclipse to visit the Lowcountry will be come on March 30, 2052 and again on May 11, 2078.
Make a plan now to be in a safe place off the roads during the afternoon hours of Aug. 21. A good place to be is the Old Santee Canal Park, where admission is free all day and plans are in place to help people enjoy this two-minute miracle.
Another good place is the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site on Dorchester Road or Givhans Ferry State Park, both of which have prepared for increased crowds.
When you do go to any of these excellent destinations, prepare of heavy traffic, get there early and bring water - remember this is going to be the middle of the day in August. The sun maybe hidden behind the moon, but it’s still going to be hot.
Finally, bring an umbrella.
David Kennard is the executive editor of Summerville Communications, which publishes the Berkeley Independent, Goose Creek Gazette and Summerville Journal Scene. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-873-9424. Follow him on Twitter @davidbkennard.