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Local residents travel to take in total solar eclipse
Aug. 25, 2017

BY GABE LICHT
Editor

DELANO, MN – Millions of people paused Monday to take in the solar eclipse, with some traveling from their hometowns to view the eclipse in totality.

That included several people from the Delano area.

Of those who shared their experiences with the Delano Herald Journal, the Black family traveled the farthest, about 760 miles to the Wheatland, WY area, where they visited their friends, the Johnstons and Millers.

To view the total eclipse, the three families settled into a pasture just above the Gray Rocks Reservoir.

“The eclipse was now in full swing, so we pulled out our eclipse glasses and began to view the event,” Corey Black said. “We had no idea how incredibly cool this experience was going to be.”

Black noted that the horizon became noticeably dim as the eclipse approached 50 percent, and the ground started changing colors.

As the eclipse took place, the temperature dropped 15 degrees. When it reached totality, the sky turned dark, they heard crickets chirping, and saw stars.

“With our glasses off, we watched the full eclipse for 1 minute and 38 seconds,” Black said. “That amount of time flew by in what seemed like 10 seconds. It was sensory overload. We all agreed that it became difficult to take it all in.”

The Blacks were not alone in their travels to Wyoming, as they experienced traffic jams on their return trip, at one point traveling five miles in slightly less than two hours.

Delano Middle School science teacher Brian Allison also traveled to Wyoming, opting to view the eclipse in Lusk after the cloud forecast prompted him to abandon plans to view the eclipse in Alliance or Scotsbluff, NE.

“If you’re going to see a total solar eclipse, you’ve got to move to get within the moon’s shadow, which is only around 70 miles wide, and the earth is much bigger,” Allison said. “The next total solar eclipse that will occur in Minneapolis will occur Sept. 14, 2099 – I don’t have that long.”

Allison, two of his children, and his brother viewed the eclipse at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds, where there were astronomy speakers, food options, and total solar eclipse stamps courtesy of the post office. He estimated the town’s population of 1,500 tripled for the event.

The eclipse lived up to the hype for Allison.

“It was amazing, breathtaking, fantastic,” Allison said. “I don’t have enough adjectives to describe it . . . When the sun is completely covered, you see the solar corona (plasma leaving the sun and can extend millions of miles into space, but the sun’s brightness prevents you from seeing it except in an eclipse), which is awe-inspiring. The solar corona was, by far, the coolest thing I saw that day.”

Allison said the eclipse was a reminder of how math and science can be used to predict natural events.

The next total solar eclipse will be in April of 2024, and Allison said he is now planning to make a trip to view it.

Retired science teacher Paul Hamilton traveled northwest of Alliance, NE to view the eclipse.

“While I’m not in the classroom any longer, this is the type of thing that’s fascinated me my whole life,” Hamilton said.

He had attempted to view the 1979 eclipse from a mountain pass near Helena, MT, but a cloud had blocked the view of the total eclipse. He still witnessed the lights going down in the valley then, and he could see stars, but he was looking forward to seeing the eclipse in the summer.

Hamilton witnessed hundreds of people lining country roads, but he and fellow retired science teacher Kraig Abraham opted to view the eclipse from the ridge on the high plains “where there was nothing but landscape to look at.”

“One of the cooler things was we could see the shadow coming,” Hamilton said. “It looked like we were going from a clear sky to a massive thunderstorm in the course of about a minute.”

Because Hamilton was in the center of the path of totality, the total solar eclipse lasted 2 minutes 28 seconds.

He noted a change in the atmosphere before and during the eclipse.

“The wind picked up just about the time the whole event was starting,” Hamilton said. “ . . . That wind got calmer and calmer. Within a few minutes of totality, there wasn’t a breeze. It did get significantly cooler. Because we could see so much of the landscape, the lighting was right out of a “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” type setting. It was changing constantly in the last couple minutes.”

“It was a lot of driving, but it was definitely worth it,” Hamilton concluded. “ . . . It’s the single coolest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just mesmerizing and bizarre.”

After sharing a video of his experience with his wife and children, they want to go to south Texas in 2024 to view the eclipse.

Georgia Green, 12, traveled to Nebraska with her father.

They stayed in Omaha and headed southwest from there, bypassing the crowds gathering in Grand Island, driving 20 miles from York to the rural Aurora area.

Green described the eclipse by saying, “It goes completely dark for, like, one second. Then, there’s an explosion of light and a big glare . . . The corona comes out on that side and there’s a big white ring around a black ball in the sky. It started getting bluer and then purple on the moon and the sun. As it started to move away, it started to turn red. Then, we had to put our glasses back on.”

Nature reacted in a unique way, as a rooster in a nearby corn field kept crowing.

Green said she would like to travel to view the eclipse in 2024, and she would like her father to go with her again, if possible.

Scott and Diane Gamble weren’t scared off by the crowds in Grand Island, as they were able to stay with a family member there, and view the eclipse from her yard.

“We have been aware of it for 18 years and knew we did not want to miss perhaps our only opportunity to see one,” the Gambles wrote in an email to the Delano Herald Journal.

The weather was perfect for viewing, which was an exhilarating experience for the Gambles.

“At totality, the chromosphere appears as a bright, silvery cloud around the sun,” the Gambles wrote. “It was surreal and awe-inspiring. We could hear cheers and fireworks going off all over the neighborhood, and we were playing Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart.’ I also was fascinated by the crescent moon-shaped slivers of light that came through the tree and shined onto every surface before and after totality.”

The Gambles recommend everyone should try to see a total solar eclipse at least once in their lifetime.

Katie Yaeger traveled to Beatrice, NE, with her daughter, Lucy; mom, Joan Connors; and brother, Shawn Connors, who was determined to see the totality.

The family had intended to view the eclipse at the Homestead National Monument of America, where celebrity scientist Bill Nye was counting down the crowd to totality. When shuttles to that location were running behind schedule trying to keep up with the crowd of 50,000 people, a volunteer suggested trying the YMCA, where a crowd of about 150 people gathered.

Thankfully, the YMCA had eclipse glasses for sale.

“It was an answer to prayer and, although the experience of being in totality would have been worth the drive, it was made unforgettable by the glasses,” Yaeger said.

She said the family has already begun talking about traveling to Chicago for the 2024 eclipse.

“It really is worth it to travel for it,” Yaeger said.

Linda Althoff traveled to Lincoln, NE, with her children; her friend, Stacy Gruba; and Gruba’s son to view the eclipse.

Following a baseball game at Haymarket Park, more than 6,000 people took in the eclipse and related festivities.

“There was a science expo in the courtyard of the ballpark that showed different experiments with the sun,” Althoff said.

Though it started out cloudy, the weather ultimately cooperated.

“When it was a full eclipse, the clouds parted, and we were able to see it perfectly,” Althoff said. “ . . . The kids really got into watching the second half because it was so clear.”

She described what she saw.

“You could see purples, pinks, green lights, coming around the moon when it was in full eclipse,” Althoff said.

She remembers her parents making a big deal about the eclipse in 1979, so she wanted her children to experience it in 2017.

Lisa Rasmussen traveled to Central City, NE with her family and viewed the eclipse from a small park with about 15 other families, including another one from Minnesota.

“It was amazing,” Rasmussen said. “It is something I’ll keep in my head forever.”

She was excited for her children to see the eclipse.

“The kids will be able to tell their classmates and recall their experience and seeing it face-to-face, rather than just on TV,” Rasmussen said.

She doesn’t plan to travel for the 2024 eclipse, but hopes her children will travel with their families to view the 2048 eclipse.

Dr. Greg Glavan said seeing the total solar eclipse was a bucket list item since he was let out of his advanced algebra class early to view a partial eclipse in 1979.

“I promised myself if I could ever see a total solar eclipse, I would,” Glavan said.

So, he and his wife, Mary, traveled to the Kansas City, MO area, where they opted for a HyVee parking lot in Liberty, MO.

“Thunderstorms rolled through the Kansas City area in the morning, but cleared out just in time for the start of the eclipse at 11:41 a.m.,” Glavan said. “We had clear skies through the period of totality. And, immediately after, the storms started building again. The timing could not have been more perfect.”

Glavan took in 2 minutes and 5 seconds of totality.

“Words literally cannot describe,” Glavan said. “You had to be there. You feel this profound connection to the heavenly bodies. It makes you feel so insignificant. I cried. It was perhaps the most beautiful two minutes I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was absolutely worth it.”

Jessica Mahin wasn’t as lucky as the Glavans, as it rained in St. Joseph, MO, where she attempted to view the eclipse with friends who live there.

“It was still fantastic to have it completely dark at 1:07 in the afternoon,” Mahin said.

Before the rain, they used eclipse glasses to view about one-eighth to one-fourth coverage.

She didn’t let the weather rain on her parade.

“It was phenomenal,” Mahin said. “I wish we had gotten to witness the actual eclipse, but what we had worked just fine for all of us.”

Despite the rain and being stuck in traffic, Mahin said she would still like to travel for the 2024 eclipse.

“You don’t get to have great adventures from your couch,” she said.

Delano Mayor Dale Graunke made the trek to Festus, MO, about an hour south of St. Louis.

“There were at least a couple thousand people at this little town park,” Graunke said.

NASA representatives handed out free eclipse glasses to the crowd.

When totality occurred, emcees announced that the glasses could come off.

“The minute it started to diminish, that whole place erupted with whooping and hollering,” Graunke said. “We had chills on our arms . . . It wasn’t dawn or dusk, just really weird light. The minute it went into full eclipse, all the cicadas started buzzing in the trees . . . Once it was over, they all quit.”

Graunke described the light as a bluish, grayish fluorescent-looking light.

“It starts happening and it’s so bizarre, then it’s gone and you can’t stop it,” Graunke said. “The clock keeps ticking, and it’s over with, and all you can say is, ‘We’re glad we were here.’”

The Hemmesch family traveled west of Kansas City to Waverly, MO.

“It started as an idea from one of our boys and became a great reason for a little family adventure and memory making,” Stephanie Hemmesch said.

The eclipse didn’t disappoint.

“As the moment of totality approached, you could feel the excitement building,” Hemmesch said. “At the moment of totality, there was cheering. It became as dark as night with a full moon. The street lights came on and the crickets started chirping. It was a little eerie, and very cool all at once . . . It was a great reminder of how incredible our universe is and how wonderfully everything is made.”

It was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the family, as they may not be able to travel together to view the 2024 eclipse.

“By that point, some of my kiddos will be off on their own, so it won’t be the same,” Hemmesch said.

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