Root for sunshine on eclipse day


Eclipse fever is gripping the Hoosier state. Millions of people in Indiana and across the United States are betting on the weather for April 8, as if the Mother Nature oddsmakers are picking sunshine as a heavy favorite.

A very rare total eclipse is due as the moon passes in front of the sun for a short while and those living in or visiting the “zone of totality” are counting on clear viewing of what they will not see again in their lifetimes.

There is great anticipation. Those gazing upward have invested in eclipse glasses, perhaps purchased commemorative T-shirts, and maybe traveled great distances. But what happens if it is cloudy out? What happens if it rains? What happens if the eclipse is eclipsed by uncooperative skies?

Since the adage mankind cannot control the weather applies to April 8, as well as every other day, the American Astronomical Society bluntly states – You get what you get.

Yet that group, and other authorities, say even a cloud-affected eclipse is still worth the trouble to check out.

According to the Society, “Eclipse veterans like to use the phrase ‘experience totality’ rather than ‘see totality’ because a total solar eclipse is the only celestial phenomenon that truly overwhelms the senses.”

In mid-afternoon of April 8, the moon will pass between the earth and the sun, turning the sky dark. A highlight during the process is a short-lived vision of the sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere. This is followed by just a few shafts of light being visible. The time of totality lasts only a few minutes.

This is if the day is clear enough to see all stages, hardly something guaranteed in South-Central Indiana at this time of year. The path of totality of the eclipse travels between Texas and Maine and location brings along its own odds of clarity by geography.

The Weather Channel suggests dim news about cloud probability in Indiana: “Locations in the path of totality from southern Illinois and Indiana to western New York and northern New England have historically had the highest chance of at least some cloud cover.” This is based on satellite data collected on April 8s between 1995 and 2023.

Ginger Murphy, deputy director of the state division of parks, and one of the Department of Natural Resources’ planners for eclipse day, said the agency has studied weather patterns.

In early April, while stating “We don’t know what the weather will be,” Murphy said, “70 percent cloud cover” would not be unusual. “We’re all hoping it will be better.”

Clouds or not, there will be differences in the sky compared to other days, the Astronomical Society noted. In the area of totality in Indiana, in mid-afternoon the sky will grow dark, as if it is the middle of the night. The dissipating of the warming rays of the sun will result in a noticeable temperature drop. And wildlife that won’t really understand what is going on, may behave differently.

“For four minutes, it will be the difference between night and day,” Murphy said.

At times employment of that phrase is a cliché or an exaggeration, but this time it is literally true.

A total eclipse coming to an area near you is enough of a phenomenon to excite the populace and it is anticipated hundreds of thousands of people will travel to Seymour and Jackson County, Columbus and Bartholomew County, Nashville and Brown County, and Indianapolis and Marian County. It is a given, planners say, citizens should prepare for traffic jams with the volume of cars in the region the likes of which have never been seen.

“We are filling parking lots,” Murphy said of state parks and campgrounds. “We are not parking people on the road.”

The people will come. Plans were made well in advance of the eclipse. Money was spent for hotel reservations. Except for arrival, the human element is mostly covered.

“The weather is completely out of our hands,” said Jordan Richart, public relations manager for the Jackson County Visitors Center. If it is very overcast? “That would be a very big disappointment.”

Kevin Snyder, property manager at Stave Hollow State Recreation Area in Brownstown, knows “it’s a time of year we can be under a heavy cloud cover. There will be watching the radar.”

Snyder is an optimist the eclipse will provide rewards, even if clouds intervene.

“The sun’s still shining above those clouds,” Snyder said. “At least I can experience the day-time darkness.”

If clouds butt in — and with no additional total eclipse in Indiana for many decades — the keen nature of regret as Bonnie Tyler sang, could amount to a total eclipse of the heart.

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