There are pundits and eminent scientists trying to link a massive societal change with tomorrow’s celestial event. Something similar may well happen, but don't get your hopes too far up. Take it as a wonderful experience, shared with like-minded people, a chance to go camping.
Solar eclipses are visible somewhere on earth approximately every 18 months, mostly out on the seas or in sparsely inhabited regions. Do not expect some ‘Age of Aquarius’ type of awakening among those that view the eclipse. The moon’s shadow will temporarily paint a diagonal stripe across the United States. That’s all. In that region the sun will briefly be obscured and thousands of people will possibly damage their own eyesight. Use protection or make a pinhole camera obscura with a piece of cardboard.
The huge publicity run-up to this event means almost all people in North America, plus millions more overseas, are well-aware of the date and time. Flights into the U.S. over the past few days have been booked solid. Highways are quite congested at this point, less than 24 hours prior to the event.
So a life-changing event is creating itself, for those eager to have such an epiphany in their lives. People will remember the struggle to get to a viewing place, the traffic, the eclipse itself and trying to find an empty bathroom after the sun re-appears.
It seems like a prime opportunity for terrorists to strike the U.S., much like the Millennium was projected to be. In a way they’ve already started, if you look at Charlottesville as a start. I can safely say this now that the event is so close. Mad bombers and discontents are set in motion with far less than an eclipse.
Thankfully it’s a big country, whatever a few crazed people chose to do spoil the event it will not bother many. A coordinated attack on all U.S. computer systems, including infrastructure like power plants, had been ongoing, tomorrow could hardly be any different. Hackers, emboldened by the current occupant of the White House, seek secrets and credit card lists every day of the week already.
DISASTER MANAGEMENT 101
Below are listed potential event types that could possibly occur, based on the author’s extensive knowledge of disasters, man-made and natural. There are detailed lists of responses to each too extensive for listing in this location.
A distinct possibility exists for certain tragic events not related to state actors or militant activity:
- Structural failure and/or stampede - These typically occur at religious pilgrimages or during time of war, usually due to overcrowding. Bridges give way, buildings topple, sewage systems get overloaded, then many people attempt to flee all at once. These events happen in India and Mecca with startling regularity.
- Network Overload - This is certain to occur, it probably already is underway. The nation’s wireless networks are not built to handle such congestion, especially in rural areas. Many viewers will be trying to post their images of the eclipse to social media all at once. In addition, landline Internet data traffic will spike as those not able to view the event attempt to stream it. People may simply panic if they cannot check Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Snapchat, etc.
- Wildfire - If a car pulls over to the side of the road and parks over dry grassland, large fires will occur. A car’s exhaust system alone is hot enough to start a large fire. Cigarettes tossed haphazardly in rural areas can create fires difficult for first responders to reach, especially given the traffic.
- Chain-reaction accidents - These are usually related to fog or darkness but the potential for huge car accidents is greater when highways are overcrowded and people are in a hurry.
- Weather - When populations are concentrated in outdoor settings, natural events like thunderstorms, tornadoes and related flooding are liable to cause higher casualty rates.
- All of the Above - All at once, the above could create quite a disaster, although still likely to be localized.
- Large vehicles driven into crowds - This type of attack is the most prevalent type being covered in the media and perpetrated in the West now.
- Arson - See #3 under non-terrorist events. Deliberate use of dry conditions is not that unusual.
- Bombings - An explosive device detonated in a huge crowd causes a greater number of casualties. This is hardly any secret with something of that nature happening almost daily South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
- Chemical Attack - Large crowds are almost the only way a chemical or biological weapon can be effective. Again, this is not unknown. The Tokyo Subway attack was widely covered. Threats of violence against the United States by North Korea and Daesh have been made quite recently. U.S.-based militant groups, including white supremacist, neo-Nazi types, pose an equally dangerous threat. We certainly know they are organized and seeking attention.
- Psychological - In the vein of George Orwell’s ‘War of the Worlds,’ malicious Internet hoaxes could lead some to panic. Millions of otherwise educated people now believe political articles displayed on clearly fake web sites. The brevity of the event makes new cruel attempts to manipulate people, based on the eclipse, less likely.
- Cyberattack - Perpetrated by state actors, through the same channels that interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election. There’s good reason to believe cyberattacks will be an ongoing type of assault from now on, eclipse or no eclipse. Energy sources, financial sites and traffic control systems are known to be vulnerable to sophisticated attackers. People may also panic in certain of these situations.
- Mass shootings - Our nation has experienced too many of these attacks, typically using assault rifles or semi-automatic handguns. Unstable people in possession of arms can and do commit mass murder. We know that all too well. These individuals cruelly seek large crowds, we know that too. Prevention of asymmetric attacks is nearly impossible.
Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. - John Stuart Mill (1867)