News reporters stand outside the Ohio Statehouse, trying to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse in 2017
News reporters stand outside the Ohio Statehouse, trying to catch a glimpse of the partial solar eclipse in 2017. [Jo Ingles | Statehouse News Bureau]

Everything you need to know – or don’t know you need to know – about the solar eclipse in Ohio

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — It’s eclipse mania in many parts of Ohio. Towns in western and northern parts of the state are preparing for an onslaught of tourists. And state agencies said they are prepared too.

Eclipse excitement

Many Ohioans saw a partial solar eclipse in August 2017. The April 8 event will be the last total solar eclipse visible in Ohio until 2099.

“It’s an exciting day,” Gov. Mike DeWine said. “Many Ohioans are going to have the chance to see maybe this once-in-a-lifetime eclipse.”

An estimated 124 miles of the state’s western and northern areas will be within the path of totality, the area where the moon will appear to completely cover the sun and the sky will go black. And that means people from outside that path are expected to flock to places within it, such as Wapakoneta, the home of late astronaut Neil Armstrong and the museum named for him.

“The museum will be open extended hours for the eclipse event,” Wapakoneta mayor Dan Lee said. “And they’ll have different guided tours, space themed children’s activities, special exclusive eclipse glasses which are going to be really cool. They’re going to have a whole bunch of food out there.”

Cleveland is also in the path of totality, so the Guardians have delayed their sold-out home opener by an hour, to 5:10. In Brookville, some religious groups will gather for a two-day-long revival. And Indian Lake State Park campground, which recently reopened after tornadoes tore through western Ohio, is completely full.

“We have 23 state parks and five wildlife areas actually in the totality that are doing awesome programs,” Jason Fallon with ODNR said, adding it’s not the only state park that’s sold out for the eclipse. And Fallon said ODNR is offering programs for people who are sight impaired too.

Devices being offered at ODNR sites to help visually impaired people hear the eclipse
Devices being offered at ODNR sites to help visually impaired people hear the eclipse. [Ohio Department Of Natural Resources]
Many museums, libraries, community centers and colleges are also offering special events to view the eclipse.

Managing the crowds

About $1 million from the state’s $86 billion two-year budget has been allocated to the Ohio Department of Public Safety to reimburse law enforcement and other emergency services that facilitate the big event.

Many areas within the path of totality for this eclipse are only accessible by two-lane roads. ODOT’s Matt Bruning said those roads are not used to so much traffic at one time, especially immediately following the eclipse. He equates it to what often happens around July 4.

“When you go to a fireworks display, people kind of trickle in ahead of it but boy, as soon as the grand finale is over, everyone grabs their stuff, heads to the car and they all leave at the same time,” Bruning said.

Bruning said people need to allow plenty of eclipse travel time, possible triple the time it would normally take to go somewhere.

A map shows the eclipse path through Ohio
Eclipse path through Ohio. [Great American Eclipse]
Sima Merick, the executive director for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, echoed that sentiment. For the past two years, she’s been working with ODOT, other state agencies and communities to come up with a plan for areas in the path of totality.

Merick said drivers need to fill their tanks, bring plenty of snacks, drinks, things for kids and pets and she added, “Pack your patience.” And because some of the areas within the pathway of totality are not well equipped with satellite service, Merick suggested packing a paper map too because it might be tough to rely on cell service.

“Because we do know there will be extra people here and people will be wanting to use all of their mobile devices. So just in case people can’t get their immediate GPS, pull the map out,” Merick said.

Hotels are full and restaurants are ready for crowds

If you live outside the path of totality and want to see the full show, you might want to stay overnight somewhere. But hotel rates are at a premium and many are already full.

“We actually sold out two years ago,” said former state representative and former Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern, who owns the Redfern Inn and the Rocky Point Winery in Marblehead along Lake Erie.

John Barker, executive director of the Ohio Restaurant Association, said the eclipse is great news for bars and restaurants.

“Well, they are going a bit crazy over it. They are excited about it and there are a lot of reasons for it. It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime for all of us,” Barker said. “So that’s number one. Number two – it’s a Monday and if you are in our industry, Monday is a slow day,” Barker said.

Get your eclipse glasses

Health experts are warning everyone not to look straight into the eclipse without special glasses. Some of Ohio’s libraries are offering them. But Jay Smith with the Ohio Library Association said they are going fast.

“Some libraries have maybe a lot still that they can distribute but some may not have very many left,” Smith said.

Other libraries in Ohio are only handing out eclipse glasses on the day of. Athens Public Libraries are only offering a limited number of eclipse glasses the afternoon of Monday, April 8. First come, first served.

Glasses are also being offered as part of programs at various eclipse viewing parties throughout the state. And you can still get them online or in some stores. The American Astronomical Society said it is important to have glasses that meet the requirement for ISO 12312-2 international standard.

Taking photos of the eclipse with a phone isn’t advised unless the phone has a filter to protect the lens. And animal welfare advocates are warning against taking pets out during the eclipse because it could damage their sight.

As always, success of the event comes down to weather

It’s April in Ohio. And typically, it’s hard to predict weather during this month because it can change so quickly.

“Overcast, you don’t have a very good chance of seeing it but if it’s like partly cloudy, that sort of thing, you definitely have a better chance,” said Doug Kahn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.

Kahn said this is an El Niño year, so that could also affect the chances for getting weather that is good enough to see the eclipse.

The eclipse sparks creativity

Many school districts have canceled classes on April 8. And there are thousands of activities suitable for children planned all over the state on that day.

Bill Cohen performs in the studios of WCBE, Columbus
Bill Cohen performs in the studios of WCBE, Columbus. [WCBE]
And eclipse excitement has revealed inspiration to retired Statehouse News Bureau correspondent Bill Cohen, who has written a song especially for the occasion.

Editor’s Note (4/2/24 4:22 p.m.): This story has been edited to reflect that not all of Ohio’s public libraries are handing out eclipse glasses, especially in southeast Ohio.