Skies clear over Grand Ronde for total solar eclipse

For 101 seconds beginning at 10:17 a.m. Monday, Aug. 21, the temperature in Grand Ronde dipped noticeably, street lights in Tribal Elder housing activated and the sun disappeared from the sky as totality from a solar eclipse enveloped the area.

The Great American Eclipse saw the moon move between the sun and Earth and cast a 60-mile-wide shadow that raced across North America at 2,000 mph.

The total solar eclipse made landfall in Lincoln City, Ore., and ended its path across the United States in South Carolina. It was the first solar eclipse to traverse the continent since 1918.

The sun is totally covered by the moon during the total solar eclipse that took place over Grand Ronde on Monday, Aug. 21. This photo was taken at Spirit Mountain Casino's Solar Eclipse Viewing Party. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)

For Grand Ronde area residents and visitors, totality – when the moon completely blocks sunlight from reaching Earth – lasted a mere 101 seconds, but it was 101 seconds people will remember the rest of their lives.

The Shrestha family of Portland raced to the intersection of Grand Ronde and Hebo roads from Pacific City on early Monday morning when they heard cloud cover might not burn off quickly enough to allow them to witness the long-awaited celestial event.

Dave Shrestha set up an Orion SkyQuest telescope on the sidewalk just south of the intersection so that his wife, Anupma, and son and daughter, Kavi and Devina, could watch the total solar eclipse safely.

“We decided not to risk it,” Dave Shrestha said of staying on the Oregon Coast.

The corner near St. Michael’s Catholic Church became an impromptu observatory for many from Pacific City who hightailed it inland during the early morning and also set up portable telescopes.

In Tribal Elder Housing, Elder Herman Hudson sat in a lawn chair next to Gladys Bolton as the moon slowly encroached on the morning sun.

“This is something that a lot of people don’t get to see,” the 92-year-old World War II veteran said,

Hudson said he had seen partial eclipses before, but never a total solar eclipse. “This is totally different,” he said.

Hudson shared the experience with his daughter, Kathryn Dunham, and son, Steve Hudson. Dunham brought her friends Patricia Love and Valerie Washington with her from Washington state, while Steve Hudson was with his friend, Rick Whitney (Cherokee).

Mike and Tammy Robison of Springfield, who were staying with Tribal Elder Steve Rife for Contest Powwow weekend, used welding masks to protect their eyes as they watched the eclipse progress toward totality.

“We thought that since we’re here, we’ll just take a look at this,” Mike said while viewing the partially consumed sun at 9:45 a.m.

“The main reason was powwow, but this came in second,” Tammy added.

Tribal Elders Marcella Selwyn and Marilee Norwest sat on their porch, watching the eclipse through widely distributed safety glasses.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Selwyn said. “I had seen one awhile back, but I can’t remember when. It kind of scared me because I had never seen it before. Now, I know.”

Tessa Grant sat in her driveway with her three children, watching the eclipse. “As I was telling her (10-year-old daughter Tasina Bluehorse), this is the only time she is going to see this in her lifetime,” Grant said.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bluehorse, who knew that the moon was passing between the Earth and sun, said.

“I think it’s great,” said Tribal Elder Marvin Davis, who also saw a total solar eclipse that occurred over the Pacific Northwest in 1979. “It was amazing … history being made.”

Spirit Mountain Casino held an Eclipse Viewing Party on Monday morning in the parking lot near PlayWorld. In addition, the casino’s main parking lot and the parking lot at Grand Ronde Station were full of people viewing the eclipse.

“We had about 450 people with a lot of people standing by in cars,” Marketing Manager Shawna Ridgebear said.

At about 10 a.m. as totality drew closer, Tribal member Steve Hudson observed that the sun looked “like a banana.” The temperature was appreciably cooler at 10:05 a.m. and Herman Hudson said that the other side of the moon facing the sun “must be hotter than Hell.”

At 10:17 a.m., people took off their protective glasses and safely looked at the moon, which was surrounded by the sun’s corona for what seemed mere moments. And then a sliver of sunlight broke through, signifying the end of totality, and everyone donned their safety eyewear again.

Steve Hudson, a musician, started singing The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”

“That was so cool,” Dunham said.

“I got tired there for just a second,” Whitney quipped about the sudden darkness.

In anticipation of predicted heavy traffic, the Oregon Department of Transportation erected signs along Highway 18 between Sheridan and Grand Ronde, advising drivers not to park on the shoulder to view the eclipse.

Meanwhile, Tribal Facilities staff erected a barricade to ensure eclipse watchers stayed off the Governance Center campus.

Tribal Security and Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department personnel patrolled the area, ensuring that people did not trespass on Tribal lands. A few people in a hayfield south of the Women’s Transitional Center were asked to move before the eclipse occurred.

General Manager David Fullerton said that eclipse aficionados trespassing on Tribal lands was the only problem he heard about during the event.

“We also had to remove people from the campus, medical, Lighthouse Church and we turned people away from the powwow grounds,” Grand Ronde Police Department Lt. Tim Hernandez said. “Some people were parked on private property, blocking driveways, and the corner of Hebo highway and Grand Ronde Road got quite busy. We only asked two people to move who were too close to the highway fog line.”

Except for a skeleton crew at the Health & Wellness Center, most other Tribal employees were granted the day off so as not to contribute to traffic congestion in the totality zone.

According to NASA’s eclipse app, a partial solar eclipse started at approximately 9:05 a.m. over Grand Ronde and, after totality ended, lasted until approximately 11:30 a.m.