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Doing what we can

Aug 18, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Rain or shine, the eclipse will happen, but can affect the experience down here

It may well be unprecedented in our newspaper's history to have made the lead news item of any edition a story about what the weather forecast might be for 2 1/2 minutes, four days later.

But we did that on Thursday. Such is the interesting impact of the Aug. 21 solar eclipse

2017 has been an odd weather year, and summer has not been typical, either, with fewer of the long, hot, dry, crystal-clear days that typify August in the Wind River Basin.

So, there's some worry about what Monday's weather might bring. But the eclipse, honestly, has more to do with what has led up to it. In other words, the eclipse is about more than the eclipse

Any weather forecast more than about 36 hours out might well change. On Monday, the newspaper office buzzed with talk that the forecast for late Monday morning in Jackson was for rain, and that the forecast for late morning in Casper was overcast, but that the forecast for late morning in Riverton was sunny and clear.

That was three days ago. The forecast changed. This is Friday. It could change again by Monday. Even if it doesn't, we still are in for something we haven't seen before.

Whether Monday dawns with not a cloud in the sky or with heavy cloudcover - both unlikely - the eclipse still will be experienced. A cloud in the wrong place at 11:40 a.m. doesn't mean the big crowds, the festivals, concerts, the restaurant specials, the T-shirts, glasses other merchandise, the travel, and the crowds, the honking horns, the long lines won't happen. They will. It's simply too late to turn back now-- andwho would want to? This is once in a lifetime.

Overhead, rain or shine, the moon will move between Earth and the sun, close enough to us to blot out the enormous solar star. It will get darker, noticeably so, after about 10:15 a.m. It will stay darker, noticeably so, until after 11 a.m.

The period of absolute blackout, or maximum darkness, will last just couple of minutes anyway. The eclipse itself is rather like the before-and-after planning by us human inhabitants of planet Earth. If totality is the destination, then we have been on the journey for more than a year. And life is about the journey.

Heading into the weekend, as traffic counts begin to pick up, as 10 times more airplanes arrive at the airport than usual, as people hunt for souvenirs, food, and things to do, our job is to worry about the things we can worry about and shrug at the rest.

That means doing our best to welcome the temporary arrivals who might swell our population to twice its typical size. It means offering assistance when and where we can, whether in the form of giving directions, answering the same question time and time again, selling a shirt or a pair of solar glasses with a patient smile, and gently remembering that the many visitors are here for a happy reason, and that soon - very soon - this extravaganza of planning, visitation, and celestial wonder will be over, never to return for a single person who will witness it Monday.

We did not ask for this, but we are getting it. Alone among all living creatures on Earth, we can recognize it, anticipate it, plan for it, and, most important, thrill to it.

Amid all the hubbub, don't forget that part. Don't forget to thrill.

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2017-09-22