The stars came out in the middle of the day, zoo animals ran in agitated circles, crickets chirped, birds fell silent and a chilly darkness settled upon the land Monday as the U.S. witnessed its first full-blown, coast-to-coast solar eclipse since World War I.
Millions of Americans gazed in wonder at the cosmic spectacle, with the best seats along the so-called path of totality that raced 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina.
Related story: Next Solar Eclipse Coming to St. Louis Area in 2024
“It was a very primal experience,” Julie Vigeland, of Portland, Oregon, said after she was moved to tears by the sight of the sun reduced to a silvery ring of light in Salem.
It took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country. Along that path, the moon blotted out the midday sun for about two wondrous minutes at any one place, eliciting oohs, aahs, whoops and shouts from people gathered in stadiums, parks and backyards.
It was, by all accounts, the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, documented by satellites and high-altitude balloons and watched on Earth through telescopes, cameras and cardboard-frame protective eyeglasses.
In Boise, Idaho, where the sun was more than 99 percent blocked, the street lights flicked on briefly, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sky and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie’s Honky Tonk bar.
Passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean watched it unfold as Bonnie Tyler sang her 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
Several minor-league baseball teams one of them, the Columbia Fireflies, outfitted for the day in glow-in-the-dark jerseys briefly suspended play.
At the White House, despite all the warnings from experts about the risk of eye damage, President Donald Trump took off his eclipse glasses and looked directly at the sun.
The path of totality, where the sun was 100 percent obscured by the moon, was just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 kilometers) wide. But the rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the upper reaches of South America.
Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil the moment.
“Oh, God, oh, that was amazing,” said Joe Dellinger, a Houston man who set up a telescope on the Capitol lawn in Jefferson City, Missouri. “That was better than any photo.”
For the youngest observers, it seemed like magic.
“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she gazed at the fully eclipsed sun in Beverly Beach, Oregon.
NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.
“It can be religious. It makes you feel insignificant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things,” said veteran eclipse-watcher Mike O’Leary of San Diego, who set up his camera along with among hundreds of other amateur astronomers in Casper, Wyoming.
John Hays drove up from Bishop, California, for the total eclipse in Salem, Oregon, and said the experience will stay with him forever.
“That silvery ring is so hypnotic and mesmerizing, it does remind you of wizardry or like magic,” he said.
More than one parent was amazed to see teenagers actually look up from their cellphones.
Patrick Schueck, a construction company president from Little Rock, Arkansas, brought his 10-year-old twin daughters Ava and Hayden to Bald Knob Cross of Peace in Alto Pass, Illinois, a more than 100-foot cross atop a mountain. Schueck said at first his girls weren’t very interested in the eclipse. One sat looking at her iPhone.
“Quickly that changed,” he said. “It went from them being aloof to being in total amazement.” Schueck called it a chance to “do something with my daughters that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Astronomers, too, were giddy with excitement.
NASA solar physicist Alex Young said the last time earthlings had a connection like this to the heavens was during man’s first flight to the moon, on Apollo 8 in 1968. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission and, like this eclipse, showed us “we are part of something bigger.”
NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, watched with delight from a plane flying over the Oregon coast and joked about the space-agency official next to him, “I’m about to fight this man for a window seat.”
Hoping to learn more about the sun’s composition and the mysterious solar wind, NASA and other scientists watched and analyzed it all from the ground and the sky, including aboard the International Space Station.
Citizen scientists monitored animal and plant behavior as day turned into twilight. About 7,000 people streamed into the Nashville Zoo just to see the animals’ reaction and noticed how they got noisier at it got darker.
The giraffes started running around crazily in circles when darkness fell, and the flamingos huddled together, though zookeepers aid it wasn’t clear whether it was the eclipse or the noisy, cheering crowd that spooked them.
“I didn’t expect to get so emotionally caught up with it. I literally had chill bumps,” said zoo volunteer Stephan Foust.
In Charleston, South Carolina, the eclipse’s last stop in the U.S., college junior Allie Stern, 20, said: “It was amazing. It looked like a banana peel, like a glowing banana peel which is kind of hard to describe and imagine but it was super cool.”
After the celestial spectacle, eclipse-watchers heading home in Tennessee and Wyoming spent hours stuck in traffic jams. In Kentucky, two women watching the eclipse while standing on a sidewalk were struck by a car, and one has died, authorities said.
The Earth, moon and sun line up perfectly every one to three years, briefly turning day into night for a sliver of the planet. But these sights normally are in no man’s land, like the vast Pacific or Earth’s poles. This is the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.
The last coast-to-coast total eclipse in the U.S. was in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president. The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979, but only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.
The next total eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.
Associated Press writers Gillian Flaccus and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon; Peter Banda in Casper, Wyoming; Caryn Rousseau in Chicago; Seth Borenstein in Nashville, Tennessee; Johnny Clark in Charleston, South Carolina; and Beth Harpaz in Madisonville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
Some cruise passengers have watched the solar eclipse as Bonnie Tyler sang her hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
The Welsh singer was backed on the ballad by Joe Jonas’ band, DNCE, during a Monday afternoon performance in an outdoor theater on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” topped the Billboard charts for four weeks in 1983. Spotify says streams of the song have increased by 2,859 percent in the U.S. and 827 percent worldwide during the past two weeks.
The crickets and other animals grew noisy as it got darker at the Nashville zoo, but when the sun was totally blotted out, it was the humans who drowned out the animals, clapping, “oohing” and “aahing” for more than the nearly two minutes the total eclipse lasted.
And then once the light returned, the show began.
Many in downtown St. Louis went to the roofs of their building to experience the partial eclipse.
Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.
“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she watched the fully eclipsed sun from a gravel lane near her grandfather’s home at Beverly Beach, Oregon.
The temperature dropped, birds quieted down and crickets chirped as the line of darkness raced across the continent and Americans oohed, aahed and shouted at the sight.
In Boise, Idaho, people clapped and whooped, and the street lights came on briefly in the middle of the day, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sun and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie’s Honky Tonk bar.
It promised to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the thin ring of light known as the corona.
The shadow a corridor just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 kilometers) wide came ashore in Oregon and then began traveling diagonally across the heartland to South Carolina, with darkness lasting only around two to three minutes in any one spot.
Hundreds are gathering on the lawn of the Missouri Capitol to watch the eclipse.
Jefferson City is one of about a dozen places in the U.S. where NASA will livestream the solar eclipse and people drove for hours to observe it in Missouri’s capital city on Monday.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that some hospital systems in the St. Louis area are activating their emergency response plans, increasing staff including eye experts.
For the past month, agencies and health providers have been working together to make sure they’re prepared to respond to any situation that may arise.
Nick Gragnani is director of St. Louis Area Regional Response System, a regional group that coordinates planning and communication for large-scale events and disasters. He says that, “Everybody is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”
St. Louis University Hospital is prepared to increase staff by as much as 25 percent.
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!”
How are the zoo animals going to react to the eclipse?
Nashville 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.
The flamingo lagoon is one of the most popular locales, with the birds expected to roost and get noisy when the sun darkens.
The Memphis Redbirds are among the many minor-league baseball teams around the U.S. enjoying today’s eclipse. 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.
No big league games are scheduled to coincide with the eclipse.
Forecasters predict big chunks of the nation, including north and central Missouri and Illinois, may not get a perfect view of the total eclipse.
The toughest areas are coastal South Carolina, eastern Nebraska, and north and central Missouri and Illinois. Burke says those areas will have thick clouds and have to dodge pop-up thunderstorms.
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.
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.
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.
Thousands of eclipse tourists were gather in the tiny towns like 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.
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.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)