BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Residents in Fort Madison took maybe an extended lunch Monday as the first solar eclipse since 1979 moved through the area. And as an added bonus, some overcast clouds made the celestial event easier to see as the clouds buffered a lot of the dangerous glare.
Fort Madison experienced a 95% coverage of the sun and the town went from 1:05 p.m. to what seemed like 8:00 p.m. in a matter of minutes.
The town wasn’t in the total coverage area, but several Midwest towns in Illinois and Missouri were in the path, However, cloud cover made an untimely pass over the eclipse in some areas and left viewers a bit unsatisfied.
Geoff and Lisa Shields were in town from Madison, Wisconsin, looking at properties and visiting with family. The couple stopped down at the Connection’s Bank Clock tower and sat on the benches watching the afternoon events unfold.
Motorists would randomly stop by the two who graciously shared their eclipse glasses they were given from Kara Morrow, of KLM Realty.
“Geoff’s originally from here,” Lisa said. “But I remember back in elementary school watching this and we used old shoeboxes.”
Geoff said he also remember using boxes of some sort when he was in elementary school at Richardson.
“I think it was in first or second grade, but I remember going out and seeing the eclipse through a box.”
Patti and Dale Dobson were also in the Connection’s Bank parking lot but were going a bit more provincial.
Patti had a pinhole cut in a piece of cardboard and was letting the image reflect onto a piece of paper on the hood of their vehicle.
“I was going to go with the cereal box thing, but I didn’t have any scissors this morning or tape. But we were standing out here and a lady from the bank came out and let us use her glasses and I got very emotional. My dad would have been 90 and he would have loved to see this again,” Dobson said.
According to NASA’s website, the “celestial event is a solar eclipse in which the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location. For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds. The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979.”
At several different times, employees at Lee County Bank ran in and out of the bank parking lot to watch and photograph the event.
Amy Hogan, bank services coordinator, was one of the employees who stopped for a moment to watch the event. She said she too remembered the 1979 event.
“I remember doing something with a box, now that you mention it. I was at Richardson at the time.”
The eclipse began at just before noon and was expected to last until about 2:40 p.m. but clouds and rain were in the forecast so viewing was expected to be sporadic.