For weeks, the media has been attempting to warn Americans about the dangers of today’s solar eclipse.
Much of this hysteria has been focused around your eyesight, as today’s celestial wonder will attempt to steal the attention of anyone fortunate enough to be within its path. There are a multitude of stories circulating regarding what rating your welding goggles must be for viewing, how to create cereal box viewers, and why it actually isn’t safe to view the phenomenon from your smartphone’s “selfie” mode.
One warning, however, was the most dire of all: Do not assume that you can spend only the afternoon traveling to the path of totality.
The reason for the emphasis on this last concern is that the eclipse’s path is darkening a swath through mostly rural America, from the Pacific Northwest to the Carolina coast. This has created a serious problem for Small Town U.S.A., as millions of Americans take to the two lane blacktops and backroads of our nation in a mini-migration the likes of which we haven’t witnesses since the days of Manifest Destiny.
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As it turns out, those warnings were all for nought in Oregon, as gridlock and mayhem have ensued prompting the deployment of the National Guard.
“Oregon has long been predicted to be a scene of major eclipse traffic jams, and even by Sunday, that was proving to be true: The Oregon National Guard was called in to Madras, a small agricultural city in the sunny part of the state, east of the Cascades.
“Traffic was at a standstill for hours Sunday afternoon, gridlocked as well more than 100,000 people flocked to this small, pleasant town of 7,000.
“Madras, pronounced like glad or sad — not like the plaid fabric or the megalopolis in India — sits on the centerline of the eclipse’s path of totality.
“At Solarfest, a gathering at the Jefferson County fairgrounds that bills itself as a festival of music, science, camping and art, a pushpin map of the world marking where visitors had come from had so many pins there was no more room to document visitors from the western United States. Europe and South America were well-represented. A couple of pins were pushed into Guam. There were marked travelers from Tehran.
“Many acres of farmland were turned over to a city of tents and motor homes.”
Those clever enough to heed the warnings of the last month have hopefully arrived at their campsites and motels, while the late-to-the-game eclipse crowd may be forced to view the stellar solar shindig from their Chevy Silverados.