WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Fishel: I can't fully comprehend what I am about to see

Posted August 20

— Let's go back in time for a minute, when Greg Fishel was just two weeks into being a teenager. The date was March 7, 1970, and it was a Saturday.

A total eclipse of the sun was to come up the east coast of the United States. Cities in the path of totality included Savannah, G.A, Charleston, SC, Fayetteville, NC, and Norfolk, VA. The path of totality would then then shift just offshore, with New York and Boston just missing a total blackout. I was in Lancaster, PA and pretty darn excited about the whole thing, because the sun was going to be 93 percent obscured -- ironically about the same as Raleigh will experience on Monday. Surely with that much of the sun covered, it was gonna get pretty dark, right?

Well, that was over 47 years ago, and my memory is not quite as sharp as it used to be, but I do remember being disappointed that it didn't get any darker than it did. It seemed like dusk had come early that day, but nothing more.

What you have read so far is not intended to infest you with disappointment if you will be outside the path of totality on Monday. With the aid of your eclipse glasses, you can still witness a huge chunk of the sun being eaten away by the moon, and that is indeed cool!

Why am I so excited? Because I will be traveling to Clingman's Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains, the third highest point east of the Mississippi River. Why there? A couple of reasons. First, it's in the path of totality. Second, weather permitting, we can observe the moon's shadow racing at more than 1000 mph across the lower terrain visible from the observation deck. Is it a slam dunk it will be clear? Not at all. This time of year, there is almost always abundant moisture, and often times mountainous terrain combines with moisture to create clouds.

Nate Johnson and I will be saying some extra prayers that somehow, someway, the sun and moon will be clearly visible for a minute and a half, so as to allow us to fully experience this incredible event. One of the things that makes solar eclipses so unique for us earthlings is that the sun is 400 times wider than the moon, but it is also 400 times farther away.

This creates the perfect geometry for the moon to cover the sun, but just barely, allowing us to see the sun's outer atmosphere. Other planets have total eclipses, but in many cases their moons appear so much larger than the sun, so everything is blocked.

Monday is going to be an incredible day, and I will make every possible effort to share as much of my experience with you as humanly possible via WRAL-TV, WRAL.com, Facebook and Twitter. We are about to witness yet another example of an awe inspiring creation!


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  • Thomas Williams Aug 20, 6:48 p.m.
    user avatar

    I remember this 1970 eclipse. I was a senior in high school. My Dad and I were going fishing and we were towing the boat when it began to get dark. It didn't very dark, but dark enough that you noticed it. We were told not to look at it, and we didn't. I just don't remember it being that big of a deal. It isn't a big deal to me this time. There has been a lot of hype over this event to the point that it has been over hyped. People are driving great distances and spending a lot of money to be in the zone of the eclipse. One cannot get a room in the zone without paying a premium rate. The marquis on the highway is running a warning that traffic may be heavy and hectic due to this event. People are going to spend a lot of money to see something that only last a few minutes. Special glasses have to be used to view it, and those making these glasses are making a ton of money off of it. This is a sign that a lot of people have money to blow and time to waste.

  • Dana McCall Aug 20, 10:54 a.m.
    user avatar

    That is coincidence, not irony.