Aubrey Byron, News Editor
A solar eclipse will be visible from communities across Missouri on August 21. The path of total darkness stretches across the state and covers much of the southern St. Louis region. Areas in the path include South St. Louis city, Kirkwood, Chesterfield, Union, Cape Girardeau and entire counties to the south like Ste. Genevieve.
UMSL’s campus will see 99.93% of the total eclipse. There will be a campus viewing party which will take place at 12:30 p.m. on the Millennium Student Center Center Patio. There will also be a Planetarium show later Monday evening and an artistic performance at Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on Sunday called “Art of the Sun” featuring visual art, percussion, theater and a reading by UMSL Poet Laureate Bridget McDonald. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. August 20.
Special glasses are needed to view the eclipse safely. Looking at the total eclipse without protection can result in permanent eye damage called solar retinopathy. Eclipse glasses are available for purchase at the Triton Store and will be available at many of the on campus events.
The eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse to be visible in Missouri since 1869, according to Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Missouri is expecting a large influx of tourists in response to the eclipse. According to Michael Zeller, author of the website Great American Eclipse, estimates for eclipse visitors are for between 323,000 and 1,291,00 people to move into the path of totality. The range includes Missourians within the state and tourists from across the country and abroad. According to Connie Patterson, Director of Communications for Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the department is using a doubling of the local populations as a best guess for event attendance.
One such community expecting to double their population for the event is Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. Ste. Genevieve, a town an hour south of St. Louis on I – 55, is in the path of totality. It has already sold out their main viewing event. The main viewing area of the town accommodates 4,000 visitors, while there are other smaller viewings planned across the county. According to the 2016 census, Ste. Genevieve’s total population is just 4,493.
One employee at the Welcome Center summed up the influx. “We’re being swamped,” said Mary Elise. She was hopeful about the business the sudden spike in tourism would bring.
There are other events planned throughout the state, although many will be sold out. There is a viewing at the State Capitol in Jefferson City. There is also a KATY Trail Eclipse Bike Ride on the trail west the UMSL area. For more information about the eclipse, visit http://eclipse2017.com.
Missouri Department of Transportation is expecting heavier than normal traffic flow, according to spokesperson Andrew Gates. They are doing everything they can to monitor it, but they suggest leaving early and waiting to come home for a while to avoid traffic delays.