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Environment & Science

If you're looking to experience totality during the 2024 solar eclipse, don't stay in the Lehigh Valley

Eclipse map
This graphic shows the path of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse. Those outside the 120 mile-wide path will not see or experience the same total eclipse those inside the path will see.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Are you eagerly awaiting the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024?

If you’re planning on hanging out in the Lehigh Valley for the big event, you're going to be very disappointed.

According to experts, the only way to view the eclipse everyone is buzzing about is to be inside the 120 mile-wide path of totality.

Outside of it, you won’t have nearly the same experience, according to meteorologist Matthew Cappucci of MyRadar Weather.

“It might get a bit dim. That’s it,” Cappucci said on X (formerly Twitter) a few days ago.

“Inside the path, you’ll feel like you’re standing on a different planet,” he added.

If you haven’t heard…

The total solar eclipse is set to cross North America, passing over Mexico, the United States, and Canada. It will begin over the South Pacific Ocean.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the sun. The sky will darken dramatically as if it were dawn or dusk.

According to NASA – and, weather permitting – the first location in continental North America that will experience totality is Mexico’s Pacific coast at around 11:07 a.m. PDT.

The path of the eclipse will continue from Mexico, entering the U.S. in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse.

Pennsylvania prepares

In advance of the total solar eclipse, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are urging residents to plan ahead if they’re traveling to the northwest region of the state.

“Pennsylvania is lucky to be one of only 13 states in the path of totality for this eclipse, bringing residents and visitors a unique viewing opportunity in our own backyard. The high number of expected visitors is an opportunity to showcase our state and also requires partnership among state agencies and travelers alike,” PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said in a release.

“We are coordinating across agencies as well as with local governments and regional organizations to plan for the likelihood of traffic congestion that day with an emphasis on safety for our residents and eclipse tourists.”

Nearly 435,000 Pennsylvanians live in the path of totality, which will run through Crawford and Erie counties, as well as portions of Mercer and Warren counties.

Officials say upwards of 200,000 people are expected to journey into Erie to watch the event, which could lead to travel challenges in different portions of the state throughout the day. That’s because the path of the eclipse will impact Pennsylvania starting at approximately 2 p.m., with totality set to occur from 3:16 p.m. to 3:20 p.m.

The rest of the state — including the Lehigh Valley — will see the moon covering 90% to 99% of the sun.

If you’re going

Officials say they’ll be keeping all lanes of traffic open heading to and from Erie on I-79 via the Cranberry Interchange (Exit #28) and adding additional maintenance personnel in the event of an emergency.

“We would like drivers to pay attention to posted speed limits and keep their eyes on the road as traffic is expected to be heavier than normal here during this timeframe,” PA Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey said in the release.

Police say people gathered at rest stops will be directed to view the eclipse elsewhere and should use an event specific 511PA page – www.511pa.com/eclipse24 for suggested routes and more.

To find a location to watch the eclipse or learn about related events happening in the City of Erie and throughout Erie County, go to the VisitErie Eclipse 2024 page.

Or you can plan to visit one of four state parks within the path of the total eclipse:

"Visitors are welcome in all of Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests to view the eclipse, or the view from your local park or even your backyard will be excellent,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “Crowds are expected at state parks, especially in the northwest, so visitors should plan around sharing viewing spaces and anticipate traffic.”
Those interested in viewing the eclipse outdoors should be prepared by bringing one item above all —solar-safe glasses crucial to protecting your eyesight.

“Eclipse glasses are NOT regular sunglasses; regular sunglasses, no matter how dark, are not safe for viewing the sun,” NASA says on its website.

"Safe solar viewers are thousands of times darker and should comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.”

Eclipse glasses are still required for the entire duration of the eclipse when viewing from outside the path of totality, experts warn.