Red Cross: Follow safe viewing protocols during solar eclipse

Portions of southern Illinois could see an influx of over 300,000 visitors for the event

Katie Krupa of DeKalb (front), 9, and her mother Heather Krupa (back right) try to find the sun through the clouds using solar eclipse glasses on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 at the DeKalb Public Library in DeKalb. Heather purchased the glasses for $1 each at Walmart a few weeks ago.

DIXON — Some 31 million people living in a 100-plus-mile path stretching from Texas to Maine will be able to witness a rare total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, while people in all contiguous U.S. states will be able to see at least a partial eclipse.

The path of totality will pass through the state, with much of southern Illinois to experience a total eclipse.

Locally, Sauk Valley Community College, Dixon, will host a viewing event for the total solar eclipse starting at 12:30 p.m. Monday, April 8. The event will take place outside on the east river side of campus. This event is free and open to the public.

SVCC physics professor James Chisholm will lead the group in using eclipse-viewing boxes to watch the total solar eclipse from the east river side lawn. Free eclipse glasses will be available for the first 50 people to arrive. In case of inclement weather, the event will be moved indoors to Room 1K04 for a presentation.

Compared to the most recent solar eclipse in August 2017, the viewing path for the 2024 total eclipse is wider and passes over more cities and densely populated areas. The upcoming eclipse is also expected to last almost twice as long, at about 4 1/2 minutes, according to a news release from the Red Cross.

During the eclipse, it’s estimated that portions of southern Illinois could see an influx of over 300,000 people into the area to view the event in its totality. Areas of Illinois that could receive the largest number of travelers include Carbondale, Mt. Vernon, Effingham and much of the southern tip of the state. A large number of people estimated to travel to view the eclipse could lead to major traffic issues and potential fuel shortages. Communication systems may also experience disruptions due to heightened demand.

Leading up to the eclipse, the Red Cross has coordinated with local emergency agencies along the viewing path to ensure people are collectively prepared. This planning is a standard part of the Red Cross’ regular collaboration with local emergency management officials regarding large-scale public events.

The Red Cross and emergency officials are urging those planning to travel for the eclipse to be prepared by doing the following:

  • Remember that looking directly at the sun is unsafe. NASA recommends eclipse eyewear with an IOS compliance label, or standard, of 12312-2.
  • Pack an emergency kit in case you get stuck in traffic or can’t find a place to stay. This kit should include water, nonperishable food, a flashlight, battery-powered radio, first aid kit, medications, supplies for an infant if applicable, a multi-purpose tool, personal hygiene items including toilet paper, cell phone chargers, extra cash, blankets, maps of the area and emergency contact information.
  • Check the weather forecast ahead of time and plan accordingly.
  • Keep your gas tank full so you don’t run out while stuck in traffic.
  • Let family or friends know where you are going and the route you plan to take to get there.
  • Pick an easy-to-remember meeting location if someone gets separated from your group.
  • Make a plan for where you’ll stay overnight, if needed.

Download the free Red Cross First Aid app so you’ll know what to do if emergency help is delayed and the free Emergency app for weather alerts, open Red Cross shelter locations and safety steps for different emergencies. Find these apps in smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.

To learn more about how to safely view the total solar eclipse, go to NASA’s website.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.