Pat Hanrahan is not taking any chances of missing the total solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. He has a plan, a backup plan and a backup to the backup plan.
"My first choice is to see it from Salem, where I have relatives," says astronomy instructor and the director of Mt. Hood Community College's planetarium. "If morning clouds are forecast, I will go to Solarfest (a viewing and music event in the path of totality) in Madras, where I have camping reservations."
Hanrahan said if both spots are expected to be cloudy, "I'll drive far enough east to find a clear area."
Leaving nothing to chance, he plans to set out about two days in advance.
Few local folks seem quite as determined as Hanrahan to catch this celestial sensation.
"I'm not an eclipse junkie like some people," said Gail Hare, a retired Gresham manager. "I don't have any plans."
An eclipse occurs when the moon moves in front of the sun, darkening the sky. When the moon completely covers the sun — called totality — a stunning corona surrounds the sun. Day becomes night. There is an otherworldly sunset all around and stars come out. The temperature drops and birds go quiet.
A total eclipse of the sun will affect the U.S. from coast to coast on Aug. 21, beginning right here in Oregon. It will hit the Gresham area around 10 a.m. as not a total eclipse, but almost.
Totality lasts only a couple of minutes, but tens of millions of people will line up in the path of totality that crosses the U.S. to gaze at the heavenly happening. The American Astronomical Society said this is the first total eclipse to touch the U.S. mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918.
"I'll be working that day," said Pao Vang, an instructor at Gresham's Pacific Driver Education on Northeast Eighth Street. "For me it's not worth the headache." But he admits "it will be really interesting. It should be exciting."
Sarah Miller, a student at Mt. Hood Community College and mother of two, said she doesn't have solid plans, but definitely wants her 6- and 7 year-old daughters to see it.
Miller, a Siletz tribal member, may go to the Oregon coast where she has relatives.
To view the eclipse without eye damage, experts say special filtering glasses are necessary. Many local stores are selling them for a few dollars a pair. All the branches of Multnomah County Library will give away free eclipse glasses (while supplies last).
Vang, ever the driving instructor, also says for safety's sake if you happen to be driving locally, and not stuck in a traffic jam, it's probably best to pull over in a safe spot for the duration of the eclipse. Even if you are focused and safe on the road, other drivers may not be.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is predicting the eclipse likely will be the busiest traffic event in Oregon history. They advise eclipse watchers to be in their watch spot well beforehand or risk getting stuck in gridlock traffic.
The ride home could be worse, so plan on staying put for a while before your return trip. Be sure your car is gassed up and you have water and food on board.
Traffic around Gresham could be jammed up. Residents and travelers should expect severe traffic congestion, as the route to Madras — a prime viewing location — will take travelers through Gresham via Highway 26, and the usual bottleneck at Sandy to the east will likely be much worse, noted Elizabeth Coffey, city of Gresham's communications manager.
The city is coordinating with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and other surrounding jurisdictions to be prepared.
"This is a great reminder for all of us that we should habitually have water, food and other emergency supplies in our cars," Coffey advised. "If you are traveling, take this opportunity to stock up on necessities that you might need if you are stuck in your car for a long period of time."
The city "will adjust our plans as needed depending on the severity of the traffic during the event, but for now, we anticipate being ready to assist travelers and residents who may need medical help while stuck on the road," she said. "We'll be putting out variable messaging boards at key areas to warn travelers of congestion."
There are reports hotels in the path of totality have jacked up their prices and campgrounds are full.
"I'm not going to make any special effort," Gail Hare noted. "I'm not going to get stuck in a traffic jam."
Nick Hershey, who works at FedEx Ground in Troutdale, said he'll have the day off. He likes astronomy, but has no particular viewing plans.
"I don't want to go out in a crowd," he said, adding that he also doesn't know anyone "that is going crazy over it."
Based on many people's elaborate travel plans and predictions of catastrophic traffic for the eclipse, it seems more than a few Oregonians are doing just that.
If you want to get prepped for the big eclipse that will visible Oregon on Monday, Aug. 21, there are several local events to help you learn more.
• Dorian Janney of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland will speak at the Mt. Hood Community College Planetarium, 26000 S.E. Stark St. from 7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15. Janney will present an interactive discussion on the eclipse and explain how people can serve as NASA citizen scientists by observing eclipse-related events and entering them into the GLOBE Observer app. She will also discuss eclipse safety, share the research NASA will conduct during the event and take questions. Janney serves as an education specialist with NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement Mission Education and Public Outreach team. MHCC Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan will also show some short eclipse-related animations on the planetarium screen. Attendees will receive free solar glasses (while supplies last). Admission is $5 or $2 for children 17 and younger and MHCC students (with valid IDs). For more information, visit mhcc.edu/Planetarium
• The Gresham Library is hosting an eclipse party from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17. Learn about the upcoming eclipse and create simple solar eclipse crafts. Fun for the whole family. Everyone gets a free pair of eclipse-viewing glasses to decorate and take home. 385 N.W. Miller Ave., 503-988-5123.
• Mt. Hood Community College resident astronomer and instructor William Blackmore will present an eclipse program from 10 a.m. to noon with a planetarium tour at 11:30 a.m., the Saturday before the eclipse, Aug. 19. Blackmore will go over safety tips and share cool facts about the upcoming solar eclipse. Participants can learn how to make a pinhole viewer to safely observe the eclipse, and eclipse viewing glasses will be available while supplies last. The talk and tour is free.
Want to Learn More?
The Multnomah County Library has put together a reading list for people who want to dig deeper: multcolib.org/blog/20170721/your-guide-solar-eclipse.
The American Astronomical Society has a special section on its web page with lots of information including a list of eclipse-related events, safety tips, a glossary, links to other web pages and more. Visit eclipse.aas.org.
NASA also has a special web page with everything eclipse at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.