Chillicothe had its moment in the sun... or rather, out of the sun... Monday afternoon when the moon crossed in front of the sun, creating darkness for about a minute.
Individuals wanting to catch a glimpse of the total solar eclipse on Monday may have been doubtful up until nearly the point of totality, but they should not have been disappointed as the heavy cloud cover and rain cleared enough within a minute or two prior to the total eclipse. While clouds obscured the first part of the eclipse, by the time the moon moved into position in front of the sun, the sky opened just enough to give sky-gazers a view of the spectacular show they expected: The Bailey’s beads effect, the diamond ring, and then, finally, the corona. Cheers were heard throughout the community in response to the celestial display. “To see it was absolutely amazing,” said Steve Bertch, who traveled to Chillicothe with his wife, Ann, from Port Charlotte, Fla. “It was exactly what they said it would be.” See Total Eclipse Photos of Chillicothe The long-awaited total solar eclipse occurred at 1:09 p.m. and happened as predicted – the moon passed in front of the sun and darkness covered the Chillicothe area. For a brief moment, stars could be seen, crickets could be heard chirping, and street lights came on. Crowds of people had gathered outdoors with their faces to sky and many carried umbrellas to shelter them from the rain. For much of the time preceeding the total eclipse, sky-watchers were not wearing the special eclipse glasses because the cloud cover was too thick and the sun not visible. When the clouds cleared, they put on their glasses but only momentarily as totality soon arrived. People removed their glasses to get a brief glimpse of the corona, the moment when the moon completely blocked the sun revealing only the sun’s atmosphere. Monday’s event was the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire continental United States in 99 years. In 1918, Chillicothe experienced about a 91 percent solar eclipse. The eclipse, at the time, shared headlines with the world war. Monday’s path of totality passed through portions of 14 states. The path was approximately 70 miles wide and crossed the U.S. from west to east. The first point of contact was in Oregon at 9:05 a.m. and totality began at 10:16 a.m. The day began clear in Chillicothe, but clouds quickly moved in and by mid-morning rain began falling and cloud cover became dense. Yet, people waited in hopeful anticipation. Among them were Dale Hawkins and Lauren Hollen, a couple of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors from Tehachapi, Calif. Neither had seen a total solar eclipse in the past, but were going to make the best of what nature provided on Monday. When Hawkins saw that the path of totality was coming through north Missouri, he and Hollen made plans to watch from Chillicothe, where his parents, Linda and Clarence Meiergerd, reside. Hollen is a retired high school science teacher, and Hawkins, a retired electronics engineer and pilot. They said there’s no sure thing about the whether cooperating enough to provide visibility during an eclipse. “It’s like rolling the dice,” Hollen said. “But, it’s coming,” she said mid-morning and prior to the eclipse. “Right now, the sun is being covered up, but the moon is coming. We’re in a disappointing situation, but that doesn’t mean you have to be totally disappointed.” “Even if it’s overcast, it is still going to get intense. I’m still psyched for it,” she added. Diane McCracken and her family traveled 180 miles from Polk City, Iowa, to view the eclipse in Chillicothe. They gathered in the parking lot of Fairfield Inn & Suites, huddled beneath umbrellas and holding their eclipse glasses to their eyes. Neither Steve nor Ann Bertch had ever seen a total solar eclipse. When they learned the eclipse would be hitting Chillicothe, they decided to make a trip to the Midwest and also visit Missouri Quilt Company in Hamilton. The two were awestruck to witness the eclipse. Chillicothe was at the northern edge of the 70-mile ribbon of totality. In south Chillicothe, the moon completely covered the sun for about 1 minute, 20 seconds. In north Chillicothe, the duration of obscurity was shorter, lasting about 55 seconds. The partial eclipse began around 11:45 a.m. and the start of the total eclipse was around 1:09 p.m. Nearby communities experienced different times and different periods of totality. Utica, which is closer to the center of totality, was expected to experience a total solar eclipse of approximately 1 minute, 42 seconds. Hale was expected to experience nearly 2 minutes of totality. Throughout the Chillicothe R-2 School District, preparations were made for students to experience the eclipse. Parents and guardians were required to sign permission slips allowing their children to view the eclipse with special glasses; however, Sunday evening, the decision was made that students in kindergarten through fifth grade would not be going outside and that the students would be viewing the event online and in their classrooms. Notification was sent via textcaster and each school’s Facebook page. Chillicothe R-2 Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes said he had met with the building principals last week regarding how to handle the viewing of the eclipse. “If they believed that their students were mature enough to understand the concept of totality and the processes and procedures to remain safe, they could view totality,” Barnes stated. “Together, they chose to stay inside.” The superintendent also noted that the school administrators contacted other school districts and learned that they were keeping their students inside during the eclipse. Chillicothe Middle School and Chillicothe High School students went going outside to view the eclipse. The students were given the special eclipse glasses to wear up to the point of totality. The students were then alerted at what point they could take off their glasses and safely view the eclipse.