By The Associated Press
The first total solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. coast to coast in nearly a century has begun in Oregon.
Americans across the land are watching in wonder through telescopes, cameras and protective glasses Monday as the moon blots out the sun and turns daylight into twilight.
Totality — when the sun is completely obscured by the moon — will last just two minutes or so in each location along the narrow corridor stretching all the way across the U.S. heartland to Charleston, South Carolina.
Two-hundred million people live within a day’s drive of Monday’s path of totality. So towns and parks along the eclipse’s main drag have welcomed monumental crowds for what promises to be the most observed, studied and photographed eclipse in history.
Les and Mary Anderson will mark their 13th eclipse with hundreds of amateur astronomers who have descended on Casper, Wyoming.
The couple from San Diego is attending Astroncon, which is organized by the Astronomical League.
The Andersons met on a photography field trip at Yosemite National Park and went to Mexico for an eclipse in 1991, the year before they got married.
In Casper, they joined a friend they met during an eclipse in Aruba in 1998.
Mike O’Leary was ready Monday with a camera outfitted with a homemade eclipse filter. He says seeing an eclipse is “like nothing else you will ever see or do.”
— AP videographer Peter Banda
Both of South Carolina’s political parties are trying to capitalize on the eclipse in fundraising campaigns.
In an email titled “‘Eclipse’ the Democrats!” the South Carolina Republican Party on Monday asked donors to contribute $20.18 toward the party’s efforts to “keep Democrats TOTALLY in the dark” in next year’s elections. Republicans now hold all statewide elected offices and control both chambers of South Carolina’s Legislature.
In a message of their own, the state’s Democratic Party sent supporters links to recent political articles in several outlets reminding them of work ahead of the party.
The party told supporters, “Nobody go blind today, there’s too much work to do for Democrats all across the state!”
— AP writer Meg Kinnard
Eclipse viewers, many of them slathered with sunscreen, are streaming into the noisy Nashville Zoo hours early to see both the eclipse and animals’ weird reactions to it.
Zoo spokesman Jim Bartoo says people were camping out at the zoo entrance at 6 a.m., three hours before the gates opened and seven-and-a-half hours before totality.
Paulette Simmons of Nashville came to the zoo after a doctor’s appointment, saying she decided on the location because she wanted to see how the animals reacted.
The flamingo lagoon is one of the most popular locales, with the birds expected to roost and get noisy when the sun darkens.
Ninety minutes after the zoo opened, the pathways were clogged with people.
— AP science writer Seth Borenstein
Baseball fans in more than a half-dozen cities are heading to ballparks to watch the solar eclipse as teams look to cash in with game-day viewing parties.
Minor league teams from Oregon to South Carolina have scheduled games Monday to coincide with the total eclipse as it streaks across the United States.
In Nebraska, the Lincoln Saltdogs will wear special eclipse jerseys and stop their game to watch the full eclipse at 1:02 p.m. The team says it has sold tickets to buyers from as far away as the United Kingdom and Germany.
Other teams hosting events include the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, Idaho Falls Chukars, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Nashville Sounds, Greenville Drive, Columbia Fireflies and Charleston RiverDogs.
No big league games are scheduled to coincide with the eclipse.
— AP writer Grant Schulte
Forecasters say it looks like a big chunk of the nation on the path of the total eclipse will get clear viewing for the sky show.
National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Burke says about 70 percent of the area on the 70-mile path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina is likely to have clear skies when the moon moves in front of the sun.
Burke says it looks good for the Pacific Northwest, the Northern Rockies, Tennessee, Kentucky, and into western South Carolina.
The toughest areas are coastal South Carolina, eastern Nebraska, north and central Missouri and Illinois. Burke says those areas will have thick clouds and have to dodge pop-up thunderstorms.
Astronomers say clouds and rainstorm make it difficult to see the classic image of the blotted out sun.
— AP science writer Seth Borenstein
With just hours to go before a total solar eclipse would reach the Oregon coast, people were streaming into the fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon, to view the spectacle Monday morning.
The sound of Taiko drummers filled the air during a pre-eclipse show at the fairgrounds. Less than 50 miles north in Portland, Oregon, eclipse experts, contest winners, an astronaut and members of the media were boarding an Alaska Airlines charter flight to fly two hours southwest in to intercept the eclipse about 10 a.m. PDT.
Meanwhile, thousands of eclipse tourists were gathered in the tiny town of Weiser, Idaho. Among them was Agnese Zalcmane, who traveled to the western United States from Latvia so she could be in the zone when the moon’s shadow completely covers the sun.
— AP writer Gillian Flaccus
Americans with telescopes, cameras and protective glasses are staking out viewing spots to watch the moon blot out the midday sun Monday.
It promises to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history. The main drag will stretch along a narrow corridor from Oregon to South Carolina. Millions of eclipse watchers are expected to peer skyward, and they’re hoping for clear weather.
It will be the first total solar eclipse to sweep coast-to-coast across the U.S. in 99 years.