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Preparations continue for solar eclipse

  • City of Chester Recreation Director Patti Carter holds up one of the T-shirts currently available for sale that advertises both the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse and the one in 2024. Carter conducted a solar eclipse meeting on Tuesday at Chester City Hall.

    City of Chester Recreation Director Patti Carter holds up one of the T-shirts currently available for sale that advertises both the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse and the one in 2024. Carter conducted a solar eclipse meeting on Tuesday at Chester City Hall.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

 
By Pete Spitler
Editor@heraldtrib.com
updated: 3/31/2017 1:20 PM

Another solar eclipse meeting was held at Chester City Hall on Tuesday, as preparations continue for the Aug. 21 event.

City of Chester Recreation Director Patti Carter, EMA Coordinator Charlie Bargman II and Chester Beautification/Tourism member Cynthia Lawder educated those in attendance on what a solar eclipse is and how to prepare for the possibility of a large influx of tourists.

"The city's infrastructure is going to be taxed, extremely," Bargman said, noting there could be major traffic and emergency services delays due to the large number of vehicles on local roads. "Depending on the weather, we could have 500 people here, we could have 20,000 people here."

Bargman added that fuel will be a big issue, given the city's two remaining gas stations. He said he has reached out to Casey's and MotoMart, advising them to get their fuel deliveries a week earlier than normal.

Additional resources are being brought into the city through the Illinois Emergency Management agency, including a cell phone boosting trailer.

With the possibility of extreme heat and humidity, first aid stations will be set up at the two city-sponsored viewing sites, Cohen Complex and Cole Park, with a staffed first aid station at Memorial Hospital.

City workers will help with traffic control and parking passes and press kits can be acquired in advance.

"The CPD is going to have as many police officers on duty that day as possible," Bargman said.

The city's list of events may seem short compared to other locations that are observing the eclipse, but CBTC Chairwoman Brenda Owen has previously stated the purpose of Chester's eclipse plans is to "focus on the science" of what is happening.

Carter noted the city will have three scientists - John Wharton (managing director of facilities operations at St. Louis Science Center), David Linton (astronomy instructor at Eastern Illinois University and an "eclipse chaser") and Kevin Manning, a retired astrophysicist, high school teacher and college professor - giving presentations during the eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the new moon comes between the Sun and the Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow, called the "umbra," on Earth.

The darkest part of the eclipse, referred to as the "totality," is almost as dark as night. The last solar eclipse occurred in February 1979, but only clipped five state in the northwest and the weather was bad.

"More than 350 million people live within a day's drive of the eclipse," Carter said. "Ten million people live on the path of totality."

Carter said the City of Chester will be selling the eclipse viewing glasses for $1 and is selling T-shirts for $10. The glasses are also available at Chester Eyecare and Buena Vista National Bank, but only for their customers.

Carter recommended those purchasing glasses elsewhere to make sure they have ISO 12312-2 on them. Safe viewing of the eclipse can only be be made during totality - from 1:18.41 p.m. to 1:21.21 p.m.

"They are easily scratched," Carter said. "Make sure you put them in a ziplock bag."

Viewing the eclipse without eye protection can burn your retinas. Welder's glass is also an acceptable alternative.

Carter is also asking any businesses in the city willing to sponsor a portion of the event to let city officials know.  Reids' Harvest House and Benson's Wine Bar have confirmed that they will be open that day.

Alderman Russ Rader, who was in attendance during the meeting, is asking for city residents to clean up their yards and help make Chester presentable to the potential visitors.

In terms of lodging, the City of Chester is currently taking reservations for 10x10 spaces at Cohen Field 1 for $40, which includes a set of eclipse glasses and a memory book. The Best Western Hotel is already booked, but camping at Cole Park is available.

As for events, the Chester Public Library is planning a movie night for Friday, Aug. 18, with a magician's performance on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Fertile Soil will have a "Dance the light away" performance on Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. and St. John Lutheran is planning a space-themed scavenger hunt and barbecue on Sunday.

"What we are emphasizing to the city, if we have this influx of people, don't get out on the road with them," Bargman said. "It will create more problems with first responders."

For more information, visit www.chestereclipse.com.