Four Reasons to Beware the Solar Eclipse

You don’t need to be concerned about a dragon eating the sun or the end of the world as we know it, but there are other, much more mundane issues to think about. Take precautions, use common sense and when the eclipse happens enjoy the greatest show in the solar system. Here are some things you should think about before the eclipse later this month.

Large crowds of visitors will swell the local population

On August 21 the area’s residents will be amazed as the moon blocks the sun for a little more than two and a half minutes. It won’t be just the locals watching, whether it’s here in South Carolina or in the path of total eclipse that stretches across the country. Some local officials estimate that about 600,000 tourists will be in the Midlands that Monday or the weekend before, according to The State.

South Carolina is considered “ground zero” for eclipse viewers on the East Coast, and the state is expecting as many as two million tourists to come here for the event, according to Fortune magazine. The state is in the path of the seventy-mile wide area of total eclipse. Parts of the state will experience near total darkness for more than two and a half minutes at roughly 2:45 p.m. on August 21st.

Transportation may effectively cease for a period of time

The Charleston Post and Courier projects a million people may visit South Carolina for the eclipse, according to NPR. “Highway 17 will be gridlock,” said College of Charleston astrophysicist Laura Penny.

Oregon is also in the path of total eclipse. Its officials have gone so far as to tell residents there could be days of deadlock so they should be prepared to hunker down. “Bring extra water, bring food. You need to be prepared to be able to survive on your own for 24 to 48 to 72 hours, just like you would in any sort of emergency,” Dave Thompson, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation told the Associated Press.

Although massive numbers of visitors are great news for the area’s hospitality and restaurant industries, it’s not so great for those of us who must travel on the roads. This inflow of eclipse seekers will probably clog roads, stress emergency services and create other, practical challenges.

As the number of drivers and vehicles increase, an increase in accidents should be expected

A University of South Carolina home football game normally has more than 80,000 people (including students) filling Williams-Brice Stadium, creating traffic difficulties in Columbia. There could be eight times that many people coming to the area for the eclipse, many trying to drive in and out that day just for the event.

There will be congested interstates and major highways around Columbia before and after the solar eclipse. In 2016 the average number of vehicles on I-26 between St. Andrews Road and I-20 – Malfunction Junction — each day was 141,400. How 600,000 visitors will affect the number at that particular location is unknown, but it’s fair to say the local transportation infrastructure is not designed to handle this kind of load.

A major concern for law enforcement is people pulling over and parking on interstates during the eclipse in order to watch it. That could clog interstates and create a dangerous mix of moving and stopped vehicles on a roadway where vehicles normally travel at highway speeds. The Highway Patrol wants people to plan for the event and designate a safe and legal place to park during the eclipse. The eclipse will be visible only if local weather conditions permit it. If there’s unexpected cloudiness over a particular area, viewers could try to travel congested roads at the last minute in order to get a better view.

Visitors’ arrival in Columbia may take several days, but there may be a rush to leave once the event is over. During the eclipse itself, some drivers may become distracted and disoriented, posing a danger to themselves and others. The Highway Patrol will have extra Troopers on patrol on interstate highways.

Don’t let the eclipse be the last thing you see

Not only may the vehicle traffic around you cause an accident that results in an injury, you may also injure yourself, according to Forbes magazine. If you don’t take precautions, you could easily, severely and permanently damage your eyesight during the eclipse. The only way to safely see an eclipse directly is through sufficient eye shielding, which can include:

  • Specialized eclipse glasses, which are designed just for solar viewing,
  • Looking through welder’s glass/goggles/hoods, with shade 14 or higher glass, or
  • With a telescope/binoculars equipped with a specialized solar filter placed over the outer lens.

The sun will be obscured by the moon during an hour’s time. As the sun shrinks down to a thin line and then a few points of light, don’t be tempted to remove your eye protection and look directly at the sun. Even just looking these last spots of light directly can leave you with years of afterimages, holes in your retina or even permanent blindness. Only during absolute totality is it safe to remove your eye protection.

South Carolina has survived hurricanes, natural disasters, even a Civil War. We’ll survive an eclipse.

The area is expected to be a mix of people going about their daily work on August 21, along with those celebrating the occasion, but public safety should be a priority for everyone. For more than fifty years, the Columbia personal injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm have been committed to securing full and fair compensation for injury and accident victims throughout South Carolina.

If you or a family member is injured in an accident around the time of this once-in-a-lifetime event, you can rely on our many years of working with injury victims.  Remember that there is a deadline for filing a claim (a statute of limitations), so don’t delay. Call us as soon as you suffer an injury at the hands of a negligent party. You can reach the Louthian Law Firm of Columbia, South Carolina, by calling us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.