Ohio’s getting its first total eclipse in 200 years. Here’s what you need to know

Ohio’s getting its first total eclipse in 200 years. Here’s what you need to know

By: Nick Evans –

One week from today, more than half of Ohio is going to stop whatever it’s doing and spend a few minutes looking into the sky. The April 8 eclipse cuts a line from rural Darke County to the Cleveland suburbs, sweeping Dayton, Lima, Akron and Sandusky into the path of totality.

Eclipses themselves aren’t all that rare. A total eclipse is visible from somewhere on earth about every other year. But when you start getting specific about location they can be a bit harder to come by. In his executive order laying out Ohio’s preparations, Gov. Mike DeWine noted just “21 solar eclipses have crossed the lower 48 states during the existence of the United States of America.”

The last time it happened in Ohio was in 1806. If you miss this year’s, you’re going to be waiting until 2099.

With that in mind, state agencies are mobilizing resources for a wave of visitors, and local businesses or attractions are planning events.

Where to see it

The centerline of the eclipse runs through nine counties and another 26 sit in the path of totality. State tourism officials have set up an interactive website to find eclipse events by county.

In Auglaize County, Wapakoneta’s Armstrong Air & Space Museum is extending its hours, hosting special events over the weekend ahead of time and an eclipse viewing outside on its pavilion. The city, perhaps best known as the birthplace of Neil Armstrong, is expecting to see its population of about 10,000 double or triple over the weekend.

Museum curator and communications director Logan Rex said they started planning after a 2017 eclipse that skipped Ohio but ran from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast.

“In the beginning we started talking to other museums that were in the line of totality, seeing what they did right, seeing any advice they could give us,” he described. “We really wanted to just make sure that we had done all our homework and really prepped for the amount of people we expected.”

Still with only about 80 parking spots on-site there’s only so much they can do. Rex said he wouldn’t be surprised to see a line of cars waiting when they open the parking lot at 8:30 Monday morning and that he’s warning people they’ll “probably be doing some walking” if they aren’t there early.

But other events are a tad more fanciful. In Marysville, a brewery is hosting an “end of the world jamfest.” In Seneca County, visitors can “embark on a celestial journey of love” as part of the local tourism board’s Elope at the Eclipse event.

“That’s about an 80-20 mix, 80% are eloping and then about 20% are renewing their vows,” she said. “So yeah, it definitely blew up bigger than we anticipated it to, but we’re so excited to have everyone here in town.”

She explained the idea came from a brainstorming session where local leaders were going over all the unexpected things they should expect. They talked about people parking in strangers’ lawns and somebody brought up Burning Man. But Stephens said the idea stuck with them was people trying to get married.

“We were like, we should do the planning of a wedding here,” she said. “We definitely learned very quickly that people are going to travel for the eclipse no matter what, so how can we make sure that they travel here and have a great experience.”

The furthest flung couple is coming from Texas, Stephens said, and they’ve got another couple that’s been dating – just dating – for 40 years. The explained they stumbled across the event on Valentine’s day and figured it was a sign.

They’re still taking more couples, but you need to bring a valid marriage license to the event. The last day to get one in Seneca County is Friday April 5 – the probate court isn’t open the day of the eclipse.

State planning

In addition to local groups and businesses, Ohio’s state parks are planning for big crowds, too. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has 28 parks and wildlife areas that fall within or near the path of totality. ODNR’s Jason Fallon highlighted a few standouts.

“Magee Marsh, our wildlife area, because it’s right along Lake Erie. That’s of course where people go for the Biggest Week in American Birding, so lots of space,” he described. “Lake Loramie State Park, which is western Ohio, that park is where the longest totality will be. It’s almost 4 minutes the solar eclipse will be in totality there.”

He said all the parks in the path are expecting big crowds and heavy traffic, so “pack your patience.” Fallon added that visitors hoping to beat the eclipse day traffic by getting a campsite or a spot in a lodge ahead of time better cross their fingers.

“So, this is what I’ve been telling everybody,” he said, “for the most part we are filled, however, there are cancellations all the time.”

Wednesday, DeWine announced Indian Lake State Park, which was affected by recent tornadoes, will reopen on Friday except for Fox Island. The park’s campground will honor existing reservations beginning Friday, including those for the upcoming eclipse.

To help drivers plan for traffic congestion, the Ohio Department of Transportation has launched a forecasting map that shows how traffic could shift during the day depending on how many people visit the state. Those scenarios run from 150,000 visitors all the way up to more than 600,000. The department warns congestion will be bad before the eclipse, but it will likely be worse after the fact as people start heading home at the same time.

In a press release, DeWine’s office noted state troopers will be highly visible on roadways before and after the eclipse. They emphasized stopping on roadsides or exits for non-emergencies is CГ‰REBRO mГіvel “strictly prohibited,” and warned “do not attempt to view or capture the eclipse while driving.”