PENINSULA — Next Monday’s eclipse is likely to create a few unusual hazards in the region, including dramatically-shifting tides, potential eye damage, increased wildfire risk and traffic snarls. Experts of all kinds are urging eclipse-watchers to plan accordingly.
Eyes on the sky
Locally, the solar eclipse is set to reach maximum coverage at around 10:18 a.m. on Aug. 21. At its peak on the Long Beach Peninsula, the moon will cover 96 to 97 percent of the sun for about two minutes. The maximum amount of coverage decreases from south to north — for example 96.7 percent at Fort Columbia State Park and 96.5 percent at Benson Beach in Cape Disappointment State Park, to 95.7 percent in Oysterville. The moon will cover part of the sun for about two hours in total, from 9:06 a.m. to 11:36 a.m. The current local forecast for the day is partly sunny.
Eye doctors say it’s essential to wear certified ISO 12312-2 eclipse glasses at all times, since the sun will never completely disappear here. They warn that many glasses sold on Amazon are cheap counterfeits that may not offer protection, even if they are very dark. Staring at the sun for any amount of time can cause burns to the retina that will make sufferers see permanent black spots in their field of vision, so children who watch the eclipse need to be supervised carefully.
In Long Beach, the eclipse coincides with the first day of the annual International Kite Festival and an incoming tide that could be unpredictable. According to the Dot’s Fishing Guide Tide Table, a 7.7-foot high tide will hit Long Beach at about 1:15 p.m., when there may still be a higher-than normal number of people on the beach.
“Because of the lunar effects on the tide and such, my understanding is that we may have a tidal anomaly — the tides may be abnormally high,” Pacific County Emergency Manager Scott McDougall said. “It’s going to come in higher than people would normally expect.”
“The Aug. 21 new moon will bring very high and very low tides. A very low tide exposes a lot of beach, which is deceptively dangerous when the high tide rolls in,” Oregon State Parks officials said in a recent press release.
In Long Beach, the -1.3 foot morning low tide will occur around 6:50 a.m., creating a wide swath of sand that could unexpectedly be swamped later in the day. So, beachgoers should choose spots well away from the water’s edge.
Wham, bam, traffic jam
Oregon and Washington authorities are also bracing for the possibility of unprecedented traffic jams across the region from Sunday to Tuesday, as eclipse-viewers head for the “path of totality,” which spans central Oregon, and then head home again. Oregon Governor Kate Brown has called upon the National Guard for help, in anticipation of an influx of as many as 1 million visitors.
“There is no sure way to predict how many Washington drivers will travel to see the total eclipse,” a spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee said in a press release. “What officials do know is that hotels, campgrounds and other types of lodging along the path of totality were booked months — and sometimes years — in advance.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation warned motorists to prepare for traffic jams delays similar to the ones that occur during large winter storms, or in Seattle after Seahawks games. Police and transportation experts strongly discourage pulling to the side of the road to view the eclipse.
“Pacific County has become really adept at dealing with a tourist surge,” McDougall said, adding that traffic likely won’t be as bad here, since we’re not on the path of totality. However, he thinks it could complicate travel in and out of the county.
Flat tires and wildfires
Other potential problems, including stranding and wildfires, could arise if heavy traffic or overcast weather at low elevations cause people to drive into remote areas where they wouldn’t normally go. McDougall said people who plan to find out-of-the-way viewing spots should think carefully about whether their cars are equipped to handle rough terrain, and make sure they have water, maps and a plan for getting unstuck if they run into trouble.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that there is still a burn ban in effect for much of the state, including local areas. Campfires, barbecues and carelessly handled cigarettes could easily ignite dry vegetation. Emergency response times may be especially slow, due to intense traffic and higher-than-normal demand for their services.
McDougall said the National Weather Service will start posting regional updates about weather conditions and other eclipse-related issues on Wednesday, Aug. 15. Later this week, he will also begin posting local weather and safety information on the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency (PCEMA) Facebook page.