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How Long Island experienced eclipses in ’70, ’79, ’84, ’94

In 1994, Dave Oakland left his office to

In 1994, Dave Oakland left his office to look at the annular eclipse through special eclipse glasses, using his own glasses to focus. Credit: Newsday / Michael E. Ach

Monday’s solar eclipse will be the first to sweep coast to coast since 1918, but other eclipses have captured Long Island’s attention.

As it makes its way across the United States, the eclipse and its legacy will join several other historic eclipses in the Newsday archives.

Eclipses in 1970, 1979, 1984 and 1994 drew fanfare and extensive news coverage as people across the country attempted to catch a glimpse. Here’s what they were like on Long Island:

March 7, 1970 — A total eclipse cast a shadow across the Florida panhandle before making its way up the East Coast. By the time it reached Long Island, it wasn’t a true total eclipse — it left Long Islanders “only about 96 percent in the dark.”

But that was more than enough to bring out space enthusiasts. Newsday captured photos of families setting up telescopes and making pinhole cameras, and experts encouraged those interested to look to the sky at about 12:25 p.m.

“Not until 2017, two generations away, will anybody in the U.S. again be able to see a major total eclipse,” Newsday wrote at the time.

Feb. 26, 1979 — Long Islanders got a chance at seeing a partial eclipse less than a decade later. But while the 1979 eclipse was greeted with “joyous whoops” across the country and Canada, Long Island was left out due to heavy cloud cover.

Even if it had been visible, only 64 percent of the sun was covered.

Still, several weather events collided to boost its impact locally. Heavy rainstorms, unexpectedly warm weather and the eclipse’s effect on the tide caused flooding in Massapequa and Locust Valley. In some places, the roads “buckled like soggy pie crust,” Newsday reported.

May 30, 1984 — This was a partial eclipse known as an “annular eclipse,” where the sun cycles closer to the Earth than normal. The moon appears smaller and doesn’t completely obscure the sun, creating an eerie ring of light. It would have been an interesting sight, scheduled for about 12:55 p.m., if only the weather had cooperated.

Heavy clouds covered the sky, and “Mother Nature doesn’t issue rain checks,” Newsday wrote.

A handful of adventurous Suffolk Community College students drove south for hours until they found clearer weather in Greensboro, North Carolina. But in Sands Point, one local astronomer and about five guests instead sat solemnly inside listening to the rainfall, their viewing party for 50 canceled.

May 10, 1994 — Long Islanders got another shot at viewing an annular eclipse a decade later, in 1994, and this time the weather didn’t disappoint.

“The kids love it,” Phyllis Moore said of her fourth-grade class from Holy Spirit School in New Hyde Park, who joined about 500 elementary school students from across the area at the Vanderbilt Museum at Centerport.

At about 1:36 p.m., Long Island got a glimpse at a partial eclipse, with the moon blocking out 84 percent of the sun, save for a crescent of light.

Aug. 21, 2017 — Monday marks the eclipse experts have been predicting for decades.

Totality starts on the Oregon coast around 1:15 p.m. Eastern time and ends in South Carolina around 2:45 p.m. A partial solar eclipse will be visible on Long Island from just after 1:20 p.m. to 4:01 p.m.

About 71 percent of the sun will be covered from local vantage points.

Monday’s weather is expected to be sunny and warm, so grab your eclipse viewing glasses and get ready to watch history — you won’t have another shot at it until April 8, 2024.

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