Plan Now, Northumberland County Urges, for Coming Eclipse

In Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
With the aim of always looking ahead and being prepared, the County of Northumberland is spreading the word about what to expect (and more importantly, how to prepare) for the solar eclipse coming up April 8.

At a media briefing Monday, Director of Communications Kate Campbell introduced Emergency Planning Co-ordinator Daren Burke and Health, Safety and Emergency Risk Manager Colleen McCabe to share this important information.

The most vital consideration above all is eye safety, Burke stated.

During the event, no one should look at the sky directly – or even indirectly through a telescope or camera lens or cell phone lens – without certified ISO 12312-1 special filtered glasses. Campbell cautioned that a lot of glasses are being misrepresented as safe, so make your purchase from recommended and reputable providers, such as those listed on the county website.

The risk is of retinal burns that can lead to permanent sight loss. The retina has no pain receptors, Burke said, so any damage may not be immediately apparent. But symptoms may crop up over the next few hours such as eye redness, blurred vision, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches or dark spots in the field of vision.

Solar eclipses (in which the shadow of a new moon passes across the disk of the sun) occur roughly every 18 months, he explained, but can only be seen in any specific location once every 400 years.

This time, it will be at least partially visible in large sections of the US and Canada to some degree. But its greatest impact, where the daytime sky will go totally dark, is a 180-km.-wide band called the Path of Totality.

In Ontario, Burke said, the process of having the shadow pass across the moon will take about two and a half hours, beginning about 2:04 p.m.

You will see a gradual dimming of natural light as the sky grows dark and the temperature drops five to eight degrees. Nocturnal animals may decide it’s nightfall and grow more active, while some plants that close up for the night will start that process.

That total-darkness time is greater in the centre of the band and less toward its edge. Niagara Falls will see about three minutes of total darkness, while Port Hope – located on the edge of the band – will see not quite a full minute. And the outer edge of the band, while it emerges from Lake Ontario at Wesleyville, curves more sharply northward than the upper shore of Lake Ontario, meaning a longer stretch of total darkness as you go east (Brighton, the most easterly Northumberland community, will see almost two minutes of dark skies).

People in communities outside the band entirely – Toronto, Peterborough, Kitchener – can be expected to come to communities within the Path of Totality, making this a mass-migration event.
“We can definitely expect an influx of visitors to the area,” Burke predicted.

“It’s impossible to guesstimate, but small communities like ours with open spaces and good viewing points could see large crowds and road congestion.

“It’s important to plan ahead and plan for local impacts.”

Plan your experience in advance, he suggested, identifying the best location and arriving there well ahead of time with your supplies (blankets, chairs, snacks and water).

Roads will be congested before and especially after the event, Burke warned.

“If you can work at home, consider that to be an option. Purchase gas and groceries ahead of time. Consider rescheduling non-essential appointments.”

The county has completed a full hazard-risk assessment, conducted mock exercises, and worked with a number of partners (including local agencies, emergency and protection services, Alderville First Nation and municipal emergency planners) to be ready for any contingency.

“I can’t stress enough, the most important factor here is people’s ability to safely enjoy the eclipse, and hopefully we won’t have the mass-migration numbers that we fear – but we will be ready if it happens,” Burke stated.

McCabe said that Canada’s propensity for cloudy skies in April is another factor that could affect the viewing experience. Clear skies will offer the best view of the gradual dimming of the light, but a cloudy day could detract from the event potentially to a great degree.

Campbell noted that not all day-care providers have made plans to close for the day, and suggested people check with their own providers. And while classes will not be in session, she added, schools will be open and teachers will be present.

She urged residents to act now to ensure their emergency preparedness kits are up to date – in a scenario where a large influx of visitors takes place, there may be the potential for shortages.
She stressed the importance of getting reliable information, noting the web page the county has created at //Northumberland.ca/NoCoEclipse. It includes referrals to authoritative sources for purchasing appropriate viewing glasses.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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