With A Year To Go, St. Joseph Braces For Thousands Watching Total Solar Eclipse

Aug 20, 2016

Try to find a hotel room in St. Joseph, Missouri a year from now, and you might be disappointed. On August 21, 2017, tens of thousands of visitors will have descended on the city to watch a remarkably rare event: a total solar eclipse.

St. Joseph falls in the small band in which the entirety of the sun will be blocked by the moon, causing the sky to go dark.

An eclipse isn’t rare, happening more than twice a year, but they are almost always partial. A total eclipse won’t happen in this area again for a few centuries, according to Dr. Krystal Tyler, a postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at UMKC who sat down with Central Standard to discuss the event.

“It’s one of those things you have to see at some point,” Tyler said. “It’s awe-inspiring.”

Witnessing it in St. Joseph might be difficult, however. Local authorities are assuming as many as 100,000 people will be in town during the event; though, some estimates claim half-a-million people could be there.

Olin Cox, owner of the Whiskey Mansion Inn in St. Joseph, got his first attempted reservation six years before the event. He told Central Standard that most of the hotels in the area started getting similar reservation requests two years ago.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse, Dr. Tyler suggests wearing special glasses with more protective power than normal sunglasses. Welding goggles and cheap eclipse glasses are the best option, but a pinhole camera projecting the image onto the ground would also work.

The eclipse should be preceded by a darkening sky and maybe even silence from birds and other animals.

Interestingly, Walter Cronkite, who was from St. Joseph, mentioned the 2017 eclipse during one of his broadcasts decades ago. 

Zach Klamann is an intern at KCUR 89.3.