- Associated Press - Monday, August 21, 2017

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (AP) - As the sky went dark, Nel Elpedes was brought to tears.

Elpedes and her family drove north from West Palm Beach, Florida, to Kentucky to see Monday’s total eclipse at a farm near Hopkinsville.

When it was in totality at 1:24 p.m. CT, Elpedes looked up without glasses and saw the purple ring around the sun, the moon blocking its rays.

“It’s so pretty,” she said. “I’m never going to see that again.”

Orchardale Farm in tiny Cerulean, Kentucky, hosted hundreds of stargazers along with media and representatives from NASA. On a sweltering day, the air cooled off in the minutes before the sun was blotted out.



Brothers Forrest and Bill Richardson traveled from Owensboro, Kentucky. The two spun around, dazed, as darkness fell on the field where they had set up a tent.

“I like the fact that you have sunset all the way around, 360 degrees,” Bill Richardson said. “I’m not seeing that many stars though.”

Forrest Richardson quickly replied to his brother, “I don’t care - I see one (the sun) and it looks amazing!”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Forrest Richardson said. “I know there’s going to be some eclipses in the future, I’d love to see one more, I don’t know if it’s going to be full ones or not, but I would go anywhere in the world to see that again.”

Jennifer Murray whooped and clapped as the sky grew dark. “Can I take these off now?” she asked a friend, referring to the cardboard eclipse glasses. “Oh my goodness,” she gasped.

The farm in western Kentucky was considered the best in the state for the eclipse. Hopkinsville Mayor Carter Hendricks said the area hit the “cosmic lottery” - the city was expecting more than 100,000 visitors and a $30 million economic impact from the weekend.

Carl Osborne of Lancaster, Ohio, bought a telescope when he was 15. Thirty-three years later he dusted it off at the farm. He has seen many celestial events with the telescope including Haley’s comet. He bought a solar filter online for the large telescope, which is about the size of a golf bag.

Osborne, 58, started planning for the trip in December and drove in on Sunday morning.

“I don’t get my telescope out very often but I look up at the sky just about every night,” he said. “I told a friend every time I look forward to an astronomical event, it’s always cloudy, so I hope that doesn’t happen today.”

The skies were clear. And after the eclipse came the crawl. Heavy traffic and backups were reported on roads leading out of Hopkinsville.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said Interstate 69 interchanges at the Western Kentucky Parkway and the Pennyrile Parkway had “become a parking lot.” There also were substantial slowdowns along I-69 in the Princeton area.

Todd said people who were not already on the road should “stay put for a while to allow some of this traffic to clear.”

___

Associated Press photographer Mark Humphrey in Hopkinsville and writer John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.

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