Safety Tips for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse will be upon us this Monday, 21 August 2017!  What happens is that the Moon blocks out the Sun’s view for a brief period of time, which may lead to nighttime-like conditions when the eclipse passes us by in the Tampa Bay region.
According to Bay News 9, the Tampa Bay region should see the maximum of the partial total eclipse sometime around 1451 (2:51 PM) on Monday, 21 August 2017.   Some school districts across the Tampa Bay region are allowing students to be absent as an excused day from school; you will want to check with your local school district for the specifics.
Here are some eclipse safety tips as eclipse day draws nearer (some of the eclipse safety tips are from NASA’s 2017 Eclipse Safety page):
  • Most importantly:  Never, never look at the eclipse with the naked eye or with your regular eyeglasses on including sunglasses!  It will be so bright that eyesight damage can result!
  • The only way to view the eclipse safely without endangering your eyesight is the use of eclipse glasses or viewers that comply with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard.  If you purchase a pair of those safety glasses, make sure that it reads that it complies with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard. 
  • If you happen to be driving on Interstate 275 in the Tampa Bay region when the eclipse hits, never, never stop on either shoulder on the Interstate 275 mainline or any exit ramp!  It is illegal pursuant to Section 316.1945 of the Florida Statutes and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper can issue you a citation for stopping on the Interstate 275 shoulders or mainline.  Besides, it’s also very dangerous.  Instead, stop in a safer place if you want to view the eclipse.
  • The same thing goes for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge – again, do not stop anywhere on the bridge including the 191-foot high main span.  Be aware that surveillance cameras monitored by the Florida Highway Patrol monitor all activity on the Sunshine Skyway main span and if you are seen stopping on the shoulder of the Sunshine Skyway, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper will be dispatched to see what is going on.  If you want to view the eclipse from the Sunshine Skyway area, use the rest areas or the fishing piers instead – it’s much safer. 
  • When it gets momentarily dark during the maximum totality of the partial total eclipse, turn on your headlights even if you have automatic daytime running lamps.  This will turn on your taillights and you can be seen better.
  • Again, do not look at the eclipse with the naked eye or with your glasses (including sunglasses) on.  It will be so bright that eyesight damage – in fact, permanent eyesight damage – can result. 
If you’re wondering where on Interstate 275’s parent, Interstate 75, you can see the total solar eclipse in its entirety where it will get dark for about two minutes, it will take place in Tennessee between Cleveland just north of Chattanooga and Farragut just west of Knoxville, with the center of the totality between Athens and Sweetwater on US 11, which parallels Interstate 75 in central and southern Tennessee.  In fact, our Interstate 275 counterpart in Knoxville (actually a spur from Interstate 40 to Interstates 75 and 640) lies just outside the path of eclipse totality.

As NASA says, a solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles.  Let’s be safe out there when the eclipse arrives on Monday, 21 August 2017 and you will have a memorable experience!

Interstate 75’s National Northern Terminus

While I was watching President Barack Obama taking the oath of office of President of the United States for his second term on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, 21 January 2013, I came across an interesting YouTube video and I watched it in the background (I had the YouTube sound turned down while at the same time I had the Presidential Inauguration on my HDTV).

As you and I know, Interstate 275’s northern Tampa Bay Region terminus is located at Exit 59, which is the exit for FL 56 in Wesley Chapel.  FL 56 shares the same exit with Interstate 75 as Exit 275 while the actual exit for southbound Interstate 275 from southbound Interstate 75 is Exit 274.  I am grateful that the Florida DOT made this correction as far as the exit from northbound Interstate 275 to FL 56 is concerned in order to avoid motorist confusion.

Now do you know where Interstate 75’s national northern terminus is?  We know where Interstate 75’s national southern terminus is located, at FL 826 in Hialeah just outside of Miami.

While this may not be Interstate 275 related, remember that Interstate 75 is the parent route of four Interstate 275 routes, one in the Tampa Bay Region (Tampa/St. Petersburg) and the other three are located in:

1.  Knoxville, Tennessee:  Formerly a part of Interstate 75, Interstate 275 exists as a spur from Interstate 640 (of which Interstate 75 is routed upon as a bypass route) to downtown Knoxville just south of Interstate 40.  This section is considered more of a spur route than a through or bypass route, as the first even digit of a three digit interstate route number is supposed to be for routes that rejoin the parent route elsewhere, such as a bypass route.  Perhaps the Tennessee DOT in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) could have designated that extant segment of Interstate 75 in Knoxville – when it got rerouted onto Interstate 640 as a bypass route in 1982 as part of the World’s Fair celebrations – as Interstate 175.  Besides, the same three digit number can be used in a different state.

2.  Cincinnati, Ohio:  Here is an Interstate 275 that really shows its true purpose when the Interstate Highway System was conceived in 1956:  A circumfrential bypass of the Cincinnati metropolitan area.  What makes this Interstate 275 so special is that it spans three states:  Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana for a short segment.

3.  Detroit, Michigan:  This Interstate 275 was supposed to be a bypass of the Detroit metropolitan area from Interstate 75 south of Monroe to somewhere in Springfield Township (Davisburg) in upscale Oakland County, Michigan.  Unfortunately, NIMBY prevailed in Oakland County and Interstate 275 was truncated to its present day terminus at Interstates 96 and 696 in Farmington Hills.

Detroit – along with Tampa/St. Petersburg – are two major metropolitan areas in the United States without any meaningful mass transit system.  According to Wikipedia’s page on Pontiac, Michigan, there was once a commuter rail service that ran to Detroit as part of the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority, but service was discontinued in October 1983 and efforts are under way to restore service.  A workable mass transit system including commuter rail is needed if Detroit wants to recover in the economy and compete with other American metropolitan areas.  So does the Tampa/St. Petersburg area too.

If the Michigan DOT could not complete Interstate 275 to its proposed northern terminus in Springfield Township, it could be renumbered as a possible Interstate 175 as Interstate 275 does not reconnect with Interstate 75 at another point.  Unfortunately, the Michigan DOT can’t change an interstate number on its own whim – instead, it has to go through the hoops of AASHTO and the FHWA for their review and approval.

By the way, Detroit has another three digit Interstate 75 route:  Interstate 375, which is a spur into downtown Detroit just like Interstate 375 into downtown St. Petersburg.  I included this just to give you an idea of how a three digit interstate highway is properly numbered:  Odd digits represent spurs, while even digits represent bypasses.

Now if you think Interstate 75 ends in Detroit, you are wrong.  From Detroit, Interstate 75 passes by Pontiac, then Grand Blanc, Flint, Bay City and Grayling.  Just before St. Ignace is another major bridge crossing the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Huron:  The Mackinac Bridge, which was completed in 1957.  Both the Mackinac Bridge and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge – the Sunshine Skyway being a part of Interstate 275 – are a part of the Interstate 75 system in its own right.

Right after crossing the Mackinac Bridge Interstate 75 enters Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and passes by the city of St. Ignace.  Another 50+ miles later, Interstate 75’s next city is Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.  What makes Sault Ste. Marie special is that it is the home of the national northern terminus of Interstate 75, right after you pass Exit 394, Easterday Avenue.  Beyond Easterday Avenue is a toll plaza for the international bridge that connects Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with its twin sister, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.

Speaking of the YouTube video I was watching while I had the Presidential Inauguration on TV, here it is, courtesy of YouTube user Cochrab:
Perhaps the Michigan DOT could place a mileage sign on southbound Interstate 75 just south of Easterday Avenue in Sault Ste. Marie showing the mileage not only to Detroit, but to Tampa as well as Interstate 75’s national southern terminus in Miami.  I put Tampa in there as Interstate 75 is a sentimental favorite of vacationers who make the trip south to Florida for the winter as well as those who use Interstate 75 to head south to Florida for the perfect Florida vacation!  Most Canadian “snowbirds” usually join Interstate 75 in Detroit after crossing the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and clearing U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but there are some snowbirds that make the complete Interstate 75 crossing from Sault Ste. Marie too.
Besides, if you are headed southbound on Interstate 75 going over the Florida state line from Georgia, several miles after the Florida Welcome Center you start seeing signage not only for Tampa, but for Interstate 275 to St. Petersburg.  Perhaps the Florida DOT put up those mileage to Interstate 275 signs on southbound Interstate 75 right after the Florida Welcome Center for that “you’re almost there” look and feel.

So, I’d thought I give you a little insight as to where Interstate 75 – the parent of our Interstate 275 here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area – goes if you were to just drive north.  Instead of stopping in Wesley Chapel, you would pass through northern Florida and cross Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan and – 394 miles from the Ohio-Michigan border – Sault Ste. Marie, Easterday Avenue and the international bridge that separates the United States from Canada.  After all, Interstate 75 is over 1,780 miles of interstate highway pleasure, ready at your service.