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Clackamas Fire prepares for emergencies; county creates eclipse web page; OMSI director of space science education offers some advice on how to enjoy the big event

Clackamas Fire Emergency Manager Gregg Ramirez won't get to go outside on Aug. 21 and watch the eclipse with the hoards of people in Oregon.

COURTESY: NASA - This could be what the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse looks like; the photo was taken of a past solar eclipse from AustraliaRamirez will instead be inside Clackamas County's Office of Disaster Management listening to calls coming into the 911 center and helping decide how emergency personnel will respond. Clackamas firefighters will be on duty to staff a wildfire-fighting brush rig or the agency's third ambulance in the event they are needed locally or if they are requested to support neighboring agencies.

"Within seconds of something coming in that's beyond our capacity, we'll have the ability to call in additional off-duty firefighters," Ramirez said.

Clackamas Fire has been preparing response plans to Aug. 21 as part of a widespread collaborative effort. Local public safety officials have prepared a comprehensive "Incident Action Plan" that outlines response strategies should eclipse-day events require a change in day-to-day operations.

"We've been planning for months with our stakeholders, so we finally feel at this point that we're ready to meet the needs of our community," Ramirez said. "We are confident that our advanced planning and partnership with our stakeholders will be the key to success in protecting the residents of our fire district."

On the other hand, Jim Todd has been looking forward to watching Oregon's total solar eclipse since 1979, when he was a senior in high school in Goldendale, Washington, and a total solar eclipse crossed over much of the Pacific Northwest.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NASA - This NASA map shows the projected path across Oregon of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse."I've had that date in my mind since then, honestly," says Todd, who is now the director of space science education at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Professionally, he and his team at OMSI began planning for the eclipse three years ago, as the astronomy community — and then the general public — started buzzing about this rare solar phenomenon that happens two to three times per year but is rarely visible in the United States.

The "path of totality" will stretch for 62 miles, starting when it touches land between Lincoln City and Newport on the Oregon coast, stretching southeastward to communities including Salem, Corvallis, Albany, Madras, John Day and Ontario before continuing its path across the U.S. toward South Carolina.

It's the first time it touches the U.S. mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918.

During the two minutes of totality — between 10:15 a.m. and 10:27 a.m. in Oregon — we'll see what's called the corona, or the crown, "an absolute spectacle," Todd says. You'll have a glow. The only time you can see that is when the sun is blocked."

People in the path of totality in Oregon will see it for just two minutes of total darkness before it sweeps southeast, traveling almost 3,000 miles per hour and crossing the state of Oregon in just nine minutes.

In 90 minutes, it will cross the entire nation, from the West Coast to East Coast. "It's the length of a movie," Todd says. "I don't recommend anyone go watch a movie during the eclipse. They'll miss the whole thing."

One million people are expected to come to Oregon for the event, since it's poised for the best weather and viewing conditions.

Over the course of the past two years, hotels, campgrounds and events in the path of totality have largely sold out, with international travelers, astronomy geeks and curiosity seekers driving the traffic.

The Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, which Todd is spearheading for OMSI in Salem, sold out quickly with 8,000 attendees.

The best thing to do now? Watch it from the Portland metro area, where you still will have 99 percent darkness.

In Portland and nearby suburbs, the sky won't fall pitch black, but it will drop to what feels like an overcast day, with a small glow of blue sky at the top where the moon's silhouette almost completely covers the sun.

You will still need to wear solar eclipse viewing glasses, certified by the ISO or CE. "Never take your glasses off for a partial (eclipse) ever," Todd says. "That 1 percent can still damage your eye."

You also may be able to see Venus during the partial eclipse; Venus, Mars and Mercury will be visible for total eclipse viewers.

"Oregon is not going to have ever seen anything like this before," says Todd, who's been at OMSI for 33 years.

Once you recover from this year's eclipse, you can start planning for Oregon's "annular" eclipse on Oct. 14, 2023. That's when a disc of the moon will be smaller than the sun, appearing as a ring of fire in the sky.

As if it couldn't get any more spectacular, the center line will be over Crater Lake.

"It's not totality," Todd says, "but it's still an amazing eclipse."

For more about the Aug. 21 event: greatamerican eclipse.com/oregon.

To buy certified eclipse glasses: eclipseglasses.com.

County creates eclipse web page

In anticipation of the solar eclipse, Clackamas County has developed an informational web page (clackamas.us/eclipse) filled with helpful tips for residents and visitors to experience a safe event.

The state of Oregon expects 1 million visitors during the Aug. 21. eclipse.

The path of totality — within which the moon completely blocks the sun — partially runs through the southern part of Clackamas County (most of the full path is south of the county).

The new web page compiles information from various other counties, state agencies, and experts. Sections include:

• items to bring

• travel/transportation issues

• general safety/public health tips

• fire danger

• garbage, solid waste and sanitation

• boating safety

The county's Tourism and Cultural Affairs Department — branded as Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory — also has a webpage (mthoodterritory.com/solareclipse) devoted to learning about places to watch the eclipse and other tourism information.

Portland Tribune reporter Jennifer Anderson contributed to this story.

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