Meteorologists are quick to say that there are no certainties in weather, especially beyond a couple of days, but early indications are that Mother Nature will cooperate nicely with the historical solar eclipse that is anticipated in East Tennessee on Monday.
Leading computer forecast models indicate very low rain chances for Monday afternoon, when the eclipse is timed to occur, and the National Weather Service is anticipating no problems.
"(I'm) beginning to think, based on the latest trends, that viewing will be good throughout the forecast area," a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Morristown weather forecast office said Thursday afternoon.
The NWS is forecasting a 20 percent chance of rain for the Oneida area Monday afternoon, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 80s.
Some typical summertime cloud cover is expected, and timing of the clouds during the very short eclipse window — a total eclipse is expected for only two minutes and 30 seconds even where it will be at its greatest — will determine whether the eclipse will be a memorable one for viewers.
Scott County Director of Schools Bill Hall said Thursday morning that the school system will dismiss classes at 11:30 a.m. Monday morning in anticipation of the eclipse.
The Oneida Special School District had previously announced that it will dismiss classes at 12:15 p.m. Monday afternoon.
Both school systems have purchased enough eclipse viewing glasses for every student to be sent home with a pair of the glasses on Monday.
In Scott County, only a partial eclipse is expected, with the sun to be between 98 percent and 99 percent obscured by the moon, depending on exact location.
The path of the total eclipse will be located south of Scott County. The easiest way for local residents to experience the total eclipse will be to drive south on U.S. Hwy. 27 to Morgan County. The total eclipse can be experienced as nearby as Pilot Mountain, between Sunbright and Wartburg, but will only last for a few seconds there. Further south in Wartburg, the total eclipse is expected to last one minute and 13 seconds. Closer to the so-called "center line" of the path of total eclipse, in places such as Crossville and Rockwood, the total eclipse is expected to last more than two minutes.
Experts say that while a 99 percent partial eclipse is an interesting phenomenon, those who are located in Scott County as the eclipse occurs will not truly experience the celestial wonder of a total eclipse.
“Some folks might think that, if the sun is obscured 99 percent as seen from their home, there is no need to see more,” said astronomical cartoonist Jay Ryan.
“Indeed, the sky will certainly appear very strange under those conditions, but the sun is not extinguished at anything less than 100 percent obstruction.”
Even at 99 percent obscuration, Ryan said, “the sun is still 10,000 times brighter than it would be during totality.”
The National Park Service has announced that there will be eclipse viewing ceremonies at the Obed Wild & Scenic River Visitor Center in Wartburg and at the Lily Bluff Overlook within the Obed Wild & Scenic River.
For Scott Countians not wishing to make the drive into the total eclipse zone, the NPS will also offer an eclipse viewing ceremony at Bandy Creek Visitor Center in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.
Free eclipse viewing glasses will be available at each location.
Scott County Sheriff Ronnie Phillips told the Independent Herald that he expects an increase in traffic on Monday, and that he will have additional deputies on patrol.
Scott County Emergency Management Agency Director Wendy Walker has advised local residents to invest in eclipse viewing glasses that are NASA-approved if they plan to view the eclipse. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage.