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Eclipse West Plains: Party in the Path is two months away, set for April 8

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Excitement is building as the April 8 total solar eclipse approaches, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Ozarks. While the path of the eclipse stretches from Texas to Maine across the U.S., West Plains has the good fortune of being in the middle of it all and with totality surpassing three minutes.

All the continental U.S. will experience a partial eclipse, but a relatively small band will be in the ‘path of totality,’ where the moon will completely block the view of the sun. It’s that totality which makes the opportunity so special in West Plains. A Scientific American article from 2017 written by Edwin L. Turner, a professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, explains:

“You will not see anything particularly spectacular unless you are in the path of totality, where the sun is 100 percent covered by the moon,” he said. He notes that partial eclipses are explained in percentages, which are simply for the purpose of expressing the fraction of the sun covered by the moon. “So a total eclipse is 100 percent, but over a much wider area, the moon will cover a smaller fraction, say, 95 percent or 80 percent or whatever. A reasonable person might conclude that an 80 percent eclipse is 80 percent as interesting/spectacular as a 100 percent eclipse. That is completely wrong. It gets about 10,000 times darker when the moon covers the last one percent of the sun’s surface,” he said.  “If anyone has friends and family members who live where they will see only a partial eclipse on April 8, even if it’s 99 percent, and they’re thinking they are ‘close enough,’ we want to encourage you to let them know they need to get to totality,” said City of West Plains Tourism Manager, Melissa Wharton. “I’ll add that the 2017 eclipse only offered partial viewing for our area. So, if you enjoyed that eclipse in West Plains, you’ll really be impressed by this one.” 

Aside from the experience of it, totality is also where the economic impact of the eclipse comes into play and why so much attention is being paid to it by the task force.“We’ve been planning for the eclipse for the past three years in anticipation of seeing a huge influx of visitors to the region,” Wharton said. “While it might seem like a lot of effort for a three-minute event or unrealistic to expect big crowds, those who have experienced a total solar eclipse say it’s understandable that people will be traveling from near and far to get to totality. We want to welcome those visitors and give them something to do while they’re here, and we want our local businesses to be prepared for them.” What the task force is offering visitors and residents is the “Party in the Path,” April 5-8, four days filled with fun events for all ages. “From the 38 Special and Ozark Mountain Daredevil concert on Friday night to a Neon Parade on Saturday to a balloon glow and fireworks event on Sunday with music by Ha Ha Tonka and Fender Bender along with lots of other events and activities mixed in, all leading up to the eclipse at 1:54 p.m. on Monday, we hope everyone will view this as a unique opportunity to enjoy a very special astronomical event,” Wharton said.  Find out more about what will be happening by liking and following “Explore West Plains” and “Eclipse West Plains” on Facebook and by visiting explorewestplains.com/tse/. For other information, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center at tourism@westplains.gov or 417-256-8835. ISO-certified solar glasses are needed for enjoying the path of the eclipse as it enters and then leaves totality. They are available for purchase for $2 per pair at the Ozark Heritage Welcome Center, 2999 Porter Wagoner Blvd.; Country at Heart, 2 Court Square; Ream Optometry, 760 Kentucky Ave.; VisionXpress, 1713 Gibson St.; and Hart Family Eye Care, 808 Kentucky Ave. Organizers note before 2017, the last total solar eclipse visible from Missouri was in 1869. After 2024, the next total solar eclipse visible in the Ozarks will be in 2178.