If you want to see the whole eclipse, you must hit the road

Cortland to see 99% of totality; look north and west for 100%


The last total eclipse to traverse New York was in 1925. After April 8, the next will be in 2079. So the eclipse is a once-in-two-lifetimes opportunity.

However, Cortland County isn’t in the path of totality – about 99% – so if you want to see the big show, you’ll need to travel.

Syracuse, for example, will see totality for about 84 seconds. Rochester will see it for 3 minutes, 39 seconds.

Cortland Police Chief Paul Sandy expects to have a couple of extra officers on duty for it, but isn’t as worried as other parts of the state, where police warn of traffic jams, people walking at the roadside, stranded motorists and overloaded cell networks.

“I don’t think it’s as big a deal here as it is in some places,” Sandy said Monday. “You see the news about traffic jams and hotels getting full, so we’ll check up on them.”

The total solar eclipse will begin in western New York shortly after 2 p.m., reports iloveny.com. Full totality will begin in Chautauqua County at 3:17 p.m., moving through the state to Plattsburgh at 3:25 p.m. It begins in Syracuse at 2:09 p.m., reaching totality there at 3:23 p.m. Locations in the path of totality could experience total darkness for up to 4 minutes.

Valerie Puma, communications specialist for AAA Western and Central New York, said AAA looks at the eclipse event as a way to remind travelers of how to stay safe.

“It’s becoming quite a tourism sensation,” Puma said Monday, and all the excitement could distract drivers.

“Do not attempt to watch the eclipse while you’re driving,” Puma said. The eclipse’s path and timing is known down to the minute, so plan your trip.

State police Troop E headquarters in Canandaigua announced it will operate as the command post for all state police operations, with forward operating bases in Rochester, Auburn and Bath.

Public transportation is another option to ease congestion.

And congested they will be. Jackie Bray, commissioner of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said in a Monday news conference that drivers can expect gridlocked traffic for several hours. Bray advised calling 511 for real-time traffic updates or going to 511ny.org.

Bray said to top off gas tanks and pack food, water, extra blankets and winter wear.

Keep your headlights on during the event, Puma said, and to watch out for animals. Nocturnal critters might stir with the sudden dark, and daytimers might go to sleep. Keep enough space between cars to allow for emergency maneuvers.

Specialty solar viewing glasses are the only safe way to look at the eclipse, Puma said. Get only glasses approved by the International Organization for Standardization. A limited number of free glasses are available at iloveny.com. Glasses are also available at rest stops across the state.

They’re also available at all Tompkins County libraries, Tompkins County Whole Health reports.

If you can see your hand in front of your face, you need better eclipse glasses, said Kathryn Garcia, director of state operations. State agencies have been preparing for the eclipse for 18 months, she said.

Garcia said during the 2017 eclipse that went from Oregon to North Carolina, drivers got stuck in their cars for up to 10 hours.

“We don’t want that in New York,” Garcia said Monday.

Garcia said the state is treating the eclipse like any weather or mass-gathering event, and is viewed as a statewide event.

Garcia said eclipses have captivated humanity for millennia.

“They’re a rare glimpse into the workings of the solar system,” Garcia said. “They’re breathtakingly beautiful, everything transforms into twilight.”