Eclipse: Just another working day for lots of feds

If all goes well and it’s sunny where you are, folks from Oregon to South Carolina will enjoy a total eclipse of the sun today between about 10:19 a.m. PDT through 2:48 p.m. EST in Columbia, South Carolina. Folks in Baker City, Oregon; McCall, Idaho; Jackson Hole  and Casper, Wyoming, will get the full effect — unless it’s cloudy. Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Jefferson City, Missouri, will also get a once-in-a-life peak later in that afternoon. Motels in Bowling Green, and Hopkinsville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee, have long been sold out as folks outside the 67-mile wide total eclipse band move closer to the action. Oregon expects a million eclipse tourists.

Inside the eclipse zone, budding business people are renting parking spaces — some including lunch or dinner in the field — to folks who want to see the eclipse from the inside. There are a number of federal centers and field offices inside the zone. Workers with the Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security and Transportation departments will be on high alert for everything from campfires gone wild to air safety. Most of the data reported about today’s eclipse (the first total coast-to-coast in 99 years) comes from Uncle Sam.

Federal experts say the actual eclipse will be brief, ranging from just under 2 minutes totality to as long as 2 minutes and 40 seconds for folks in Carbondale, Illinois. NASA has calculated that it will be moving at 1,700 miles per hour. More than 12 million people live in the total eclipse band and another 7 million are expected to move to one of the good viewing spots at least temporarily. It could be a real economic shot in the arm to small towns and not-so-small cities as people arrive a day early, book rooms, eat and buy souvenirs. One woman in the Midwest reportedly is renting out spots on her farm. The price is $1,500 per couple, including lunch or dinner served in the field.

Because Uncle Sam is everywhere, many of the people who live in the band of total darkness will be working feds, postal employees and retirees. This is a very big deal. It is the first time in 100 years for a coast-to-coast total eclipse and it may be equally that long before there is another one. “So if you are putting it off until next time, you may want to reconsider.”

To see where you stand (or lay in the path of the total eclipse), check these maps.

Enjoy it, whether you’re in or outside the zone. And don’t forget the special glasses.

Nearly Useless(ful) Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

In honor of the rarity of a total eclipse being visible through many parts of the U.S. today, Nearly Useless Labs has decided to go counter-mission and present a useful factoid for those in our audience who like donuts. For those who don’t like donuts, please consider this your “Nearly Useless Factoid” for the day.

To mark the total solar eclipse, Krispy Kreme will be selling limited edition, chocolate-glazed “Eclipsed” donuts. Likewise, Duck Donuts will be selling a black-and-white “Eclipse Assortment” of donuts.