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Burning Eclipse Questions Answered 

Experts tell you what you need to know about the Great American Eclipse

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Wondering something about the Great American Eclipse? Here are the answers.

1. If you live in Bend, does it make sense to try to go to Madras for totality or should I just stay put?

Source Says: It's the difference between night and day. Pun intended.

Expert Says: "A solar eclipse is nature's grandest spectacles. If I were you, I'd say, it's worth it. Quite frankly, if you have any chance to see the totality at all, it is quite remarkable. I have been looking forward to this since 1979. It is a rarity to have totality in our very own backyard. After this year, there won't be another one here for 154 years. It's an opportunity of a lifetime. It really is. It's one of those events you must see."

– Jim Todd, Director of Space Science Education, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

2. Is it really going to take 12 hours to get from Bend to Madras during the eclipse?

Source Says: False. Unless the highway is at an absolute standstill due to a crash or emergency.

Experts Say: "I will tell you that if it takes between 8-12 hours, then the highway would be essentially closed. Even if you were only traveling 5 miles per hour, it wouldn't take that long. So anything above a few hours to get there is essentially hypothetical. We're really hoping that's not the case and we'll try as hard as possible to keep the highway moving...and mitigate accidents because those are what would really throw a wrench in the movement of the road."

— Sgt. Nathan Garibay Emergency Services Manager, Deschutes County Sheriff's Office

"ODOT has stopped all construction across the state over the weekend to keep the traffic moving."

— Katy Brooks President, Bend Chamber

3. If we're in partial totality (such as in Bend) what will we see?

Source Says: Go to totality. Seriously. It's "once-in-a-lifetime."

Expert Says: "In a 99 percent area, you'll experience "deep" partiality and may see the very edge of the sun. The moon will still track off-center, but at the time of maximum coverage, the sun will end up being covered by it. You'll see a very thin sliver of the sun - the closer you are to the path, the thinner the sliver you'll see. You'll also get to see the sky darken a bit, and if you're really close to the path, the overall eeriness of the quality of the light around you will deepen. You'll get that weird feeling that the light isn't right, and that something very strange is going on around you. But, that's it.

"If you look to the far right, you can block the edge of the sun out with your hand and see part of venus and you might be able to see stars."

– Jim Todd, OMSI

4. I live in Sisters and I'm not in totality. So how much of it will I actually not see or notice? I mean, it's almost the same. Right?

Source Says: It's like a GMO version of totality, but without the freaky potential consequences!

Experts Say: "So what you're going to see is called the hybrid and it'll be spectacular.

"You'll see a combination of totality and partially. That'll be great, but you may only have to go a couple hundred yards north to see 30 seconds more of totality (so do that.) But where you are in the hybrid zone you'll definitely have a story to tell.

— Jim Todd, OMSI

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5. How will smoky skies or clouds affect viewing the eclipse?

Source Says: Yeaaaaaah..... That's gonna be a problem, that one. Do a rain dance to extinguish those fires. Then do a clear-sky dance.

Experts Say: "It will have a noticeable impact... and it will limit the amount of stars you could see. But...(haze) will actually turn the sky a spectacular color! We're going to hope for the best and track the weather closer to the date."

— Jim Todd, OMSI

"I tested this out the other day with eclipse glasses and hazy conditions. I looked outside at about 10:20 am (time of eclipse) and the sun was at about the 1:pm mark. I could see it through the glasses even with the smoke."

— Kristine McConnell

Manager, Industry & International Relations, Central Oregon Visitors Association (COVA)

6. Is it true that a hot car exhaust can cause a wildfire?

Source Says: Are you from Central Oregon? No? OK, then we forgive you for this question.

Experts Say: "Well, there's a number of hazards. It doesn't take a lot for a car converter to ignite dry grass, so parking on dry grass – especially if you leave your vehicle running – could very easily start a fire. And that, of course, would ruin your day and also add stress to crews that are probably already overextended."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay

7. Okay, so when do I take off my eclipse glasses? And can I take them off at all if I'm only viewing the partial eclipse?

Source Says: In Bend or in 99.9% or below? Don't take them off. EVER. In Madras or in totality? You have a brief window of time when the moon blocks the sun. Read below.

Expert Says: "Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (totality), when the moon entirely blocks the sun's bright face – which will only occur within the narrow path of totality. Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun. Afterwards, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.

"Outside the path of totality, you MUST ALWAYS use a safe solar filter to view the sun.

"Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight. If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them.

"Do not look at the un-eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, a camera — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.

"Make sure eclipse glasses are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, and aren't scratched, punctured, or torn, you may reuse them indefinitely. Some glasses/viewers are printed with warnings stating that you shouldn't look through them for more than three minutes at a time and that you should discard them if they are more than three years old. Such warnings are outdated and do not apply to eclipse viewers compliant with the ISO 12312-2 standard adopted in 2015.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

8. Help! My grandpa is senile and sat on my glasses! The eclipse is starting in 7 minutes! What can I do?

Source Says: Punch grandpa in the face and steal his. He's senile, he won't even know. No, just kidding.

Expert Says: "An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. (See page 18 for how to make one) For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other, creating a waffle pattern. With your back to the sun, look at your hands' shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse. Or just look at the shadow of a leafy tree during the partial eclipse; you'll see the ground dappled with crescent suns projected by the tiny spaces between the leaves."

— NASA

9. Will I really go blind if I stare up at the eclipse without proper protection?

Source Says: Yep, it's called solar retinopathy. And St. Charles Medical Center is preparing for it.

Expert Says: "We've been trying to spread the word about the seriousness of the damage that the eclipse can have on your eyes. You won't feel the effect for the next five to seven days and the effects are absolutely permanent. So keeping your glasses on before and after totality is vital."

– Lisa Goodman, Public Information Officer, St. Charles Medical Center

"I have seen instances where the patient has eventually shown up with crescents burned into the back of the eye, and you can almost tell exactly when they looked."

– Ralph Chou Professor Emeritus, University of Waterloo, in an interview with Space.com

10. Has there been any coordination with gas stations to try to mitigate gas shortages?

Source Says: Ain't it a nice time to ride yo' bike?

Experts Say: "We've been in touch with other fuel companies across the state to make sure we're all coordinated. So we're going to bring tankers over and park them here. We are doing everything in our power to make sure that we have enough storage to keep emergency vehicles and civilian vehicles supplied. Every oil company in town is working together. We're all in it together."

– Kathy Temple, Bend Oil Company, Sales and Marketing Division Manager

"The issue with that, however, is that if those tankers get stuck in traffic and aren't able to make enough trips in good enough time to keep us supplied. There's a limitation on the amount of time that drivers can spend driving per day. [Source says: Thank you, labor movement! No really, thank you, labor movement.] So there is a chance that stations in Bend or Redmond could get low or run out. That is the number one reason we're encouraging residents to fill up ahead of time so you're not competing with visitors."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay

11. Where are you getting these numbers? 200,000 people will visit the region?

Source Says: Doubling our population, you say? Ain't no thang, right?

Expert Says: "...Estimation of visitors, those numbers are based off known permitted events, hotel occupancy, campgrounds and some projections based on people staying with friends and family. Then there's a survey of people who answered that they do not live here and are coming to visit."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay

12. As an employer trying to decide whether to close or stay open, what are your recommendations?

Source Says: Do like us – we ain't workin'... and we'll still be back with your friendly weekly paper, right on time.

Experts Say: "I think it depends on your business. If you don't have to stay open then it's a great opportunity to give your employees the day off so that they can experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. It also minimizes traffic on the roadways and anytime we can limit traffic is good. But it's a personal decision that depends on the services you're offering and how well you can offer them under the conditions."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay

"Will you be able to deliver your regular services considering that traffic may be heavy and cell coverage may be limited?"

– Kristine McConnell, COVA

13. What's the difference between 911, 211 and 511 numbers?

Source Says: Better get near that landline if you want reception though.... Just kidding. Maybe.

Experts Say: "511 is ODOT's non-emergency line for updates in traffic – it's in line with trip check, it's more informational.

"211 is for the community. It's a resource hotline and handles general informational needs for visitors or locals. Something along the lines of, "I need to know where to dump my wastewater out of my RV. Or any new information on a shelter.

"If you have an emergency, just call 911."

– Kristine McConnell and Sgt. Nathan Garibay

14. What's the takeaway?

Source Says: Prep for the worst, hope for the best.

Experts Say: "We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't evaluate this as a training opportunity for something as the "Big One" (the expected 9.0 Pacific Coast earthquake). We've been working to assess community resilience. We're working with all of our service partners to find improvement and look at what went well and what we can do to improve. I think this is going to be an enjoyable safe event. Don't get too stressed out and enjoy the eclipse. I think this is an opportunity to be proud of where you live and proud of your community."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay, Deschutes County Sheriff's Office

"Know that we are trying to be safe and informed and realistic. Enjoy the eclipse and don't burn your eyeballs."

– Kristine McConnell, COVA

"It's going to be a day that you remember forever, even if you're like Sgt. Garibay, stuck in a windowless room, working. Stories will be made from this and there will be a social media explosion...and if you're fighting the time and you fall short of your destination during the eclipse but you're within the totality, get out of the car and look at it."

– Jim Todd, OMSI

"...but make sure you're not blocking any traffic, in any sage brush and you're safe in doing so."

– Sgt. Nathan Garibay

Q&A compiled from the Aug. 8, Bend Chamber event, "What's Brewing? Eclipse, What's Your Game Plan?" and from eclipse2017.nasa.gov.


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