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Environment & Science

'Disappointment': Mother Nature clouds Lehigh Valley's view of solar eclipse

Onlookers for social eclipse
Phil Gianficaro
The solar eclipse as seen at Town Square at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.

UPPER SAUCON TWP., Pa. — Nature was a tease; a burlesque show in the sky.

One moment it showed bits of the total solar eclipse and hinted at exposing more.

But then nature chuckled, and obscured the astronomical show with a quilt of thick gray clouds.

Moments later, a repeat peek through the clouds. A second later, the eclipse hidden again behind the fluffy curtains.

The promised magnificent show in the sky throughout the Lehigh Valley — the first here since August 2017 — on Monday afternoon barely materialized.

Advertised as choice filet, what nature presented was barely a cut above shoe-leather steak.

“He was so excited to see the eclipse. He talked about it all last night. I know it’s nobody’s fault. I’m just disappointed for him.”
Arielle Casas of Coopersburg, talking about her son Telly, 6

“I came here for this?” muttered Carol Van Reap of Easton. “Separating my laundry would’ve been more interesting. What a disappointment.”

Arielle Casas of Coopersburg was among about 1,000 who crammed Town Square at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley. She came with her son Telly, 6, eclipse-protective glasses and high hopes.

She left a punctured balloon — deflated.

“He was so excited to see the eclipse,” Casas of Telly. “He talked about it all last night.

“I know it’s nobody’s fault. I’m just disappointed for him.”

Solar eclipse as seen at the Promenade at Upper Saucon
Grace Oddo
The solar eclipse as seen at the Promenade at Upper Saucon

'Nature is unpredictable'

About 3 p.m., folks lined up for an opportunity to get a pair of eclipse eyeglasses. Eclipse viewing organizers announced to those in line that there would only be 100 pairs available.

Unlike the eclipse, their disappointment was quite evident.

The eclipse was scheduled to be visible at Town Square at 2:08 p.m. When that time arrived, it wasn’t. Several minutes later, it peaked through the clouds, then retreated.

At 2:30, thick clouds were an ominous portent of things to come. An hour later, the eclipse was visible. The gathering quickly put on their glasses and locked their eyes on the sky.

But just as suddenly, the eclipse again fell behind the clouds.

Then out again. Then in. Then out. In intervals of mere seconds. Cheers and groans playing hopscotch.

"Yeah, it was a little disappointing ... but nature is unpredictable."
Joanna Hatzis, Bucks County

As the clock crept toward 4 p.m., the eclipse was as visible as it had been all afternoon. Two-thirds of the sun blazed a brilliant orange beneath a moon that covered the top-third of the Earth’s star.

A moment later, it was gone.

The show in the sky that was promised was more tease than terrific.

'How could I not know this?'

Earlier in the afternoon, a squinting Martha Jerickson said she hasn’t gazed into the heavens waiting for something memorable for some time.

“Remember when the Eagles won the Super Bowl?” Jerickson, of Bethlehem, said. “Remember that final drive, right before B.G. (Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham) sacked Tom Brady and Derek Barnett recovered the fumble?

"That’s how long ago it's been since I was looking up at the sky waiting for something fantastic to happen.”
Martha Jerickson of Bethlehem

"That’s how long ago it's been since I was looking up at the sky waiting for something fantastic to happen.”

Folks began descending upon the Town Square more than two hours before the eclipse was scheduled to begin just after 2 p.m.

Many were looking to get their hands on some protective eclipse eyeglasses to view the celestial event — especially around 3:23 p.m., when the moon would obscure 92% of the sun.

Less than 30 minutes before the start of the eclipse, sheets of gauzy clouds began appearing.

Promenade Shoppes eclipse
Grace Oddo
People watch the eclipse at Town Square at The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley

Nearby, Starbucks was doing an especially brisk business as stargazers awaited the start of the eclipse.

“I didn’t know about the eclipse until people came in for coffee asking about it,” one barista said. “Crazy huh? How could I not know about this?”

'Just wasn't the best day'

Protective glasses in hand, Ronald Perkins of Lower Macungie said he’s been interested in the wonders of the universe since he was in high school.

"I just love these shows put on by nature."
Ronald Perkins, Upper Macungie, on the eclipse

“These types of things take me back to my days in school,” Perkins said. “We had a planetarium and learned about stars and galaxies.

"While some of my friends used that time to take a nap, I was drinking in the knowledge.

"I just love these Broadway shows put on by nature."

Had this event been a Broadway show, its run would have been extremely brief.

Despite the less-than-impressive showing of the eclipse, not everyone at Town Square left feeling let down.

“The fact that all these people are here gives you an idea of the appreciation people have for a celestial event like this,” Jon Harrison of Emmaus said.

“You can’t control nature. But people stay interested. Some travel the world to see an eclipse. I met a lady who travels the world to see them, including to Australia.

"Today just wasn’t the best day for this one.”