Total Eclipse a once in a lifetime event

2024 Total Eclipse – Eclipse viewers in Morrisburg had a mostly clear view of the April 8 total solar eclipse, except for some mild cloud that diffused the light (and lack thereof) during the peak of totality at 3:25 p.m. Pictured above left is the eclipse at the peak of totality. Pictured right is a photo array showing the moon moving into position. (The Leader/Blancher photos)

SOUTH DUNDAS – It was a celestial event that drew thousands of viewers from around the country to this region – The April 8 Total Solar Eclipse.

An estimated 2,000 people descended on the Morrisburg Waterfront Park and Earl Baker Park to watch the Eclipse event along the St. Lawrence River shoreline. In the lead up to the start of the eclipse, the parks looked like a really busy summer day with kids playing, families set up with blankets on the ground, and people sitting along the water.

The weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies, which did not deter a plethora of photographers set up with tripods, and sightseers alike.

Just before 2:12 p.m., First Contact began, where the Moon began to cross in front of the Sun. It took 63 minutes for the Moon to complete its transit to block the Sun – also known as Second Contact – which occurred at 3:24 p.m.
In the minutes leading up to totality, the mostly bright skies dimmed to the light levels experienced right after sunset – known as the Violet Hour.

During Totality, the temperature dropped from 16 C to 8 C, and the waterfront pathway lighting was triggered as if it was night. Clouds diffused but did not obscure the view from the waterfront, unlike the Niagara Falls region which had a much thicker cloud cover during Totality.

Throughout the crowd along the waterfront, people cheered and applauded during Totality, which could be viewed safely without the use of special viewing glasses.

And just like that, it was over. Totality lasted two minutes and eight seconds before what is known as Third Contact, when the edge of the Sun begins to be seen again as the Moon continued its orbit. By 4:35 p.m. the Sun was back in full force, unobscured except by localized cloud cover.

While many of the travellers to Morrisburg were from the Ottawa-Gatineau region, there were some from a much wider area who chose to come to Morrisburg. “I planned to go to Niagara Falls but saw the forecast cloud cover so I changed my plans to here,” said Jo, who travelled six hours from London, ON. “I looked to where might be a good spot and I’m so happy to have gotten to see this here.”

Eclipse watchers young and old were in awe of the event.

“This is the coolest thing I have ever seen,” said six year old Abbie from Carleton Place.

Once the Eclipse Totality was over, people very slowly began to leave the waterfront area, but many opted to enjoy the warm spring day in the park a little longer. Traffic leaving the waterfront area was congested around 4 p.m. but not unlike any other waterfront event like Canada Day.

There was more congestion on the main roads leaving the region. County Road 31 saw long line-ups leading to Highway 401 and beyond. SD&G OPP controlled traffic through the Morrisburg roundabout during this time.

Down the road at the Crysler’s Farm Battlefield Memorial Park, 1,100 vehicles filled with eclipse watchers filled the park. Park operator, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, told The Leader that the sold out event had 1,100 tickets available before the event. Visitors without vehicles were welcomed at no charge.

Visitors to Crysler’s Farm were also able to ride on the miniature train for an extra fee. A mobile display from the Ontario Science Centre was also set up at the SLPC event, a late announcement by the SLPC made after the event was sold out.

SLPC spokesperson Heather Kearny explained the Long Sault Parkway was not opened to vehicle traffic due to it being the off-season for the operator and limited staffing resources.

“SLPC cannot effectively staff all its sites that fall in the path of totality to ensure the safety of guests,” she said. “SLPC has put health and safety at the forefront of everything it does, adopting a ‘safety-first’ culture at all its sites.”

People were not prevented from walking or cycling on the parkway and limited staff were available at the gates during the event to keep those clear for emergency vehicles if needed.

By 12:30 p.m., parks along Lakeshore Drive between Morrisburg and Iroquois were full of Eclipse viewers. This continued to the Iroquois Beach, the marina, and up to the viewing area at the Iroquois Locks.

South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services crews were on standby throughout the day, staffed at the fire stations to allow for a faster response time in case of emergency. The Morrisburg station did not have any calls on Monday. Two Cornwall/SDG Paramedic calls were responded to from the Morrisburg Land Ambulance station on County Road 2 Monday afternoon.

With files and observations from Leader journalists Rebecca Comfort and Wendy Gibb.

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