By Paul Hay
On Aug. 21 from 11:30 a.m. until about 2:10 p.m., the solar eclipse seen across Nebraska will affect your business or farm workday, especially if you are in the path of the total eclipse from Alliance to Falls City.
The total eclipse will last two minutes and 35 seconds. The orbit of the moon around the Earth and the Earth around the sun will line up, and the moon's shadow will bring night. Temperatures will drop 10 to 15 degrees F; birds will stop chirping and go to roost; and plants will shift to nighttime respiration. Dogs, cats, farm animals, wildlife and people will all react.
What can you expect and how can you prepare? You have to realize that during this rare solar eclipse, it will not be business as usual. You need to prepare your private life and business for this situation. Consider the impact of the eclipse and visitors from out of town, as well as the impact on transportation, your family and business schedule for the day, as well as safety.
More people will be coming to the area to witness the eclipse. Homestead National Monument near Beatrice, which is in the path of the eclipse, is expecting a large crowd for a weekend of events Aug. 19-21. Some people will want access to your fields, pastures or yards. If you allow them to park a camper on your property for free, your liability risk is minimal. If you charge them, then talk to your insurance agent and add liability protection for this period of time. If you don't want people on your property, make sure fences and gates are closed and locked.
Plan ahead to minimize travel on Aug. 21 and the preceding weekend. Make sure family coming home is in for the weekend and does not depart until the morning of Aug. 22. If you have plans for fieldwork, make sure farm equipment is in the field away from the road before Aug. 21 and doesn't move to the next field until traffic flow in your area is complete.
No matter how silly you think this solar eclipse mania is, plan ahead for time with the family, or your business associates and clients. The last time this happened was 1979, and the next event is 2024. The two minutes and 35 seconds is a unique event in your life and that of friends, family and clients. Most animals will have minimal life disruption, but don't forget animals like humans can act squirrelly during unusual events.
Do not look at the sun without approved solar glasses. Do not take pictures with the lens of your camera or smartphone pointed directly at the sun, unless you have a solar filter, or don't mind paying for a new camera. Don't forget to take time to check those around you. Tripping and falling may add to initial hospital time caused by the eye damage. When staring into the sky, walking in front of a crazy driver also becomes a risk.
Hay is a Nebraska Extension educator in Gage County.