The necessary variables to experience a total solar eclipse are a rare occurrence. There’s the essential straight line between the Earth, moon and sun — and this must occur during a New Moon phase.

Coincidentally, the moon will arrive at its closest point toward Earth on April 8, when the region will experience the first total solar eclipse since 1806, a phenomenon we won’t see in Lorain County again until 2099. Not to mention, “The moon’s size is the same angular diameter as the disc of the sun at this time,” explains Jeff Woytach, a NASA aerospace engineer.

This means the moon, which is 400 times smaller than the sun, will appear to completely cover all of the sun's shine except for the corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere) — the slim ring of light you’ll see during the 3 minutes and 52.6 seconds of totality expected at 3:13 p.m., if you’re watching from Avon Lake. The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the sun’s surface. The gradual dimming begins at 1:59 p.m., when temperatures will drop and stillness will proceed until it’s lights out, explains Suzie Dills, an astronomer who hosts stargazing programs for the city and is director of Hoover Price Planetarium in Canton. 

“When you consider all of these factors, it’s a perfect situation and once in a lifetime,” Dill says.

Or, as Woytach says, “It’s a cosmic crapshoot,” given the odds.

And Lorain County’s communities are commemorating the experience.


LOCO in the Spotlight 

“Only 21 total solar eclipses have ever occurred in the lower 48 states since the existence of this country,” says Garry Gibbs, director of the Lorain County Visitors Bureau.

The phenomenon is an opportunity to be “an astronaut for the day.”

Gibbs says, “None of us will have a chance to do a moon walk, and this is an opportunity that brings residents and visitors in touch with science and space.”

It’s also the single largest tourist attraction in history for Lorain County, Gibbs says. A population of 318,000 is expected to at least triple with hotels long booked, and businesses have been preparing to welcome the influx of guests — gas stations, restaurants, shops and grocery stores will experience the swell of visitors.

It’s “Christmas in April for retailers,” Gibbs quips.

The eclipse is also a high-profile introduction to Lorain County and its many assets. “You can’t measure the number of people who will travel through Lorain County and might come back or people who will see the county on a national stage and visit,” Gibbs says.

As of late February, Avon Lake had intercepted inquiries from 26 states, Canada and Ireland. “With it being spring break, we know a number of people will invite their family and friends to come down,” says Erin Fach, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

To prepare, Fach and some team members visited Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the center of totality during the 2017 solar eclipse. “They used it as a way to revitalize their downtown,” he says, noting that the area attracted an excess of 100,000 more people than initially predicted. The conversations helped inform widespread planning.

With the county’s variety of public watch parties and events, along with concurrent events like the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Cleveland and the Guardians in town, “There is a lot of reason for Northeast Ohio to shine,” Fach says.