CLEVELAND (WJW) – It is an event like no other. It’s like a little kid playing with heaven’s dimmer switch and slowly made the light go away and then come back.
The last time a total solar eclipse rolled through Northeast Ohio was in 1806. Cleveland was still spelled with an extra “A” and most of the rest of the state was still trees.
But even then, people still looked up and squinted at something that was just fantastic.
It’s a sight that will definitely cause sore eyes if you look at it unprotected, so the best way to understand it is to use a temporary planetarium.
“If my head was the earth and I’m viewing it from the surface of the earth, the shadow that’s cast by this object that represents the moon would be that eclipse,” said Jordarr Bradshaw with the Great Lakes Science Center.
While explaining what happens in an eclipse is one thing, Bradshaw says an eclipse that people can experience is like winning the lottery.
There is actually a total solar eclipse roughly every 18 months or so somewhere on the planet.
However, with more than 70% of the world covered in ocean and another 20% that’s uninhabited, most people never experience one.
So, when an eclipse rolls across the roughly 10% of the planet that is inhabited and it rolls right through in your back yard?
Well, at a little after 3 p.m. on April 8, 2024, you will have hit the jackpot.
“But very rarely does a solar eclipse become visible on the surface of the earth and in one year, a year from now, that path of totality will cover the United States and, in fact, it will come right through Cleveland, Ohio,” Bradshaw said.
It’s a safe wager that every person that is alive now will not be around for the next one to pass through our part of Ohio, which is due in about 375 years
It will be a sight to see, so things could get a little crowded.
“70 million people are within a 24-hour drive of Ohio, so they can get in their car and within 24 hours they can be here, so when you think about that and it hits social media, people can be like ‘I can go.'”
If they all do decide to go, Sima Merick will spend most of her time indoors along with dozens of other people in Ohio’s emergency management center.
Ten or 10 million people? Will there be enough ambulances, police, fire, hotel rooms, camping space, viewing space, people to pick up the garbage?
It’s both the big and little things, and coordination is the key.
That will determine if the experience is a happy one and not one filled with gridlocked roads, angry, hungry people and general misery because, of all things, there are no bathrooms.
“Grocery stores, gas stations. We’re working with hospitals. Some of these rural counties may not have a hospital in their county,” Merick said. “In a crossroads in a smaller village in Ohio, that’s in the line of totality and one gas station. They have thousands of people, so they have to plan for porta-potties and everyone across the line and wherever the line goes across the country, they’re also looking for those porta-potties and it’s not in one area. It’s in many areas that are very similar that don’t have those resources.”
Those resources will be in great demand in Lorain County, which is one of the nine Ohio counties right on the center line.
Two towns lie along that center line where the eclipse will be at its darkest the longest.
Amherst, in the south of the county, and the point of greatest duration — almost four and a half minutes, will be at Avon Lake, but there really won’t be a bad spot anywhere in the county.
“Our population in Lorain County is about 312,000 and they’re looking at an influx of about a million people total here in Lorain County, so it’s going to be like every fair festival, Fourth of July, Browns game all in one time for a 10 minute event,” Lorain County Emergency Management Director Jessica Fetter said.
Just about every Lorain municipality, township, police, fire, hospital and any group with resources are all sitting at the same table right now with one question: What are we going to do with all these people?
The answer is show them a good time. Even though it’s a year away, they’ve already started meeting to figure things out.
“We’re working with private communities, the main streets of different communities. Vermillion was there, the Metro Parks were there and they’ve got viewing parties planned. We’ve talked with Avon and Avon Lake,” Fetter said.
She says everything is on the table and up in the air at this point. Nothing is set in stone because even though they have a rough idea of what to expect, they don’t really know what to expect.
Planners truly have to really consider everything, everywhere, all at once on one day that’s a year away. Not only that, it will not come again to this area in this lifetime.
So, the clock is ticking.
“Information sharing is the best way we can get people prepared,” Merick said.
You can learn more information about the eclipse here. Learn more on how to watch and how the region is getting prepared here.