Millions watched Monday as the total solar eclipse moved east across 14 states, completely blocking the sun for a roughly 60-mile-wide strip of land. The eclipse is believed to be the most watched and studied in history.
You can’t beat Mother Nature for special effects. Forget whatever computerized gimmickry you might see in an IMAX film, or that hyped 3-D movie.
For two minutes on Monday morning, millions across the country witnessed the emotional power of a solar eclipse. It is absolute, it is enveloping and it is very, very real.
“It was worth every headache and every hassle. The sun is such a constant, even on a cloudy day, you know it’s up there, shining,” said Mary McGhee, a registrar at the Pacific Maritime Institute in Seattle.
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McGhee and six others made their way to the little town of Madras in Central Oregon, home of Solarfest 2017 and a 100 percent, total eclipse (Seattle was at 92 percent).
“I don’t know if it was life-changing, but it was life-affirming. I’m doing something right if I went there and brought some friends with me.”
The eclipse that swept from Oregon to South Carolina was the first in 38 years in the Northwest but the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.
McGhee and her friends camped out at Juniper Hills Park.
“It was very civilized,” she said.
At least for some Madras-area businesses, all those tourist dollars didn’t translate into a pot of gold. Eclipse-watchers tended to stay put at their camp.
“We were more than prepared, but I don’t know that we did a great job of bringing them in,” said Ruben Clowers, manager of the Reuse It Second Hand Store & Café in nearby Warm Springs.
In retrospect, he said, more shuttles “and making them free” would have helped.
It turned out that the dire predictions by the Oregon Department of Transportation about traffic turning into a solar eclipse Armageddon were a bit too dire.
“Imagine trying to get to a major NFL playoff game and planning to arrive five minutes before it starts. Do you think you are going to have a good parking experience and make the kickoff?” a spokesman for the agency said last week.
By 4 p.m. Monday, traffic cams showed traffic on Interstate 5 in Oregon at fairly normal levels, and traffic out of Madras was described by Oregon State Police as “stop and go,” although a Sammamish man told The Seattle Times it took him four hours to travel 50 miles out of there.
The best seats along the so-called path of totality raced 2,600 miles across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina. It took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country.
It was, by all accounts, the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, the first eclipse of the social-media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.
The next total eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.
President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron, took in the eclipse on the Truman Balcony at the White House. Trump briefly took off his solar glasses while staring at the sun, and that caused headlines.
There was so much excitement over the eclipse that companies across the Puget Sound region did something unusual: They encouraged their employees to walk off the job for a bit Monday morning.
Unlike, say, workers sneakily watching March Madness games when they should be working, local bosses deemed it worth the expense.
In Bellevue, the tech company Apptio made eclipse glasses for its employees and held a viewing party outside its office. About 200 people — more than half the office — went outside and looked up at the sun on a 45-minute break from work.
In South Lake Union, so many Amazon employees went outside their offices that it was tough to get by on the sidewalk.
Boeing workers took breaks from their shifts, too — after coordinating with their supervisors.
The eclipse cost employers up to $694 million in lost productivity nationwide, assuming everyone scheduled to work stepped out for about 20 minutes, according to an estimate by the job-assistance firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
But the wonderment cut across generations and ethnic lines.
There were the more than 100 tribal youths at the Warm Springs Reservation in Central Oregon. Along with University of Washington scientists and students, they launched four helium balloons with cameras into the sky. For the tribal youths, the project was intended to spark interest in science.
The balloons carried small payloads, such as white sage brought by Sincere Martin and five other youths from the Shoshone Bannock Tribes in Idaho.
Martin, 17, said white sage is used to cleanse minds of negative thought. She hopes the dried sage will survive in good shape, a demonstration of her generation’s resilience in the face of struggles with alcoholism, drugs and suicides.
“We want the sage to bless our generation,” Martin said.
Martin initially wrestled with whether she should actually view the eclipse. Elders had cautioned her that tribal traditions called for people to stay inside.
But Martin, who wants to be a geologist, opted to view the eclipse and undergo a brief ceremony afterward recommended by the elders.
Meanwhile, thousands flocked to community centers and libraries for viewing parties across the Seattle area.
The Museum of Flight said that 3,000 to 4,000 people showed up to watch the eclipse with free solar glasses, the line snaking around the block, many arriving at 6 in the morning. The museum ran out of glasses and urged people to share.
Among those arriving early was Kelly Hasenoehrl, 48, who said she experienced the region’s last solar eclipse as a child in 1979.
“I wanted to see the eclipse and remember it,” she said. “I was too young, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to see another eclipse again. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.”
At 92 percent, there was still a lot of sunshine coming down.
Brett Barneycut, a West Seattle commercial fisherman there with his wife, Sarah Barneycut, didn’t mind.
“You want darkness? Wait a few hours,” he said. “It’s all good.”
At a watch party at the South Park Community Center, dozens of families and summer campers lined up to grab free pairs of safety glasses, and then set up chairs on the baseball field to wait for the show.
Construction worker Mike Salvador took the morning off to watch the eclipse with his wife and newborn daughter.
“The next one is going to be in 2024, so it’ll be fun to show her pictures of her first eclipse in a few years when she’s older,” he said.
As the eclipse began, Dan Clennan huddled with several others passing around a viewing box cut from cardboard. Clennan lives in a motor home along with several others near a highway offramp.
Monday’s eclipse was cool, Clennan said. But not as cool as the 1991 total solar eclipse he traveled all the way to Hawaii to see, he said.
“The whole sky gets dark in the daytime,” he said. “It was like something out of one of those ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ novels.”
About 700 people gathered around Bellevue’s downtown library.
Ice-cream vendor Ben Armlin showed his eclipse enterprise. He was stationed on the lawn with his bicycle-driven freezer and wore a welding hood to catch a glimpse between sales.
The library’s supply of 200 viewing shades ran out, with people still waiting in line, even though supervising librarian Darcy Brixey handed out only one per family.
“Do you know what rationing is? It’s like sharing,” Brixey told the children in line, through her bullhorn.