Hardwick, News

Eclipse Br­ings Crowds, Traffic and Unusual Events

by Sandy Reeks
The “diamond ring” effect before the last limb of the sun disappears behind the moon, as captured from Blake Hill Road in Woodbury, during the total eclipse of the sun on April 8.

HARDWICK — The April 8 total eclipse of the sun was visible in a narrow swath that passed over the U.S. and was visible throughout the area.

A total eclipse of the sun is a rare event that happens at any spot on the earth roughly just once every 375 years. Other rare events happened in the area on that day too.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
The Village Restaurant in Hardwick was filled with customers Monday with
people waiting outside to get in. Viewing of the eclipse brought many visitors
to town.

A visitor to Greensboro’s Caspian Lake Beach reported that he had purchased the last coffee at Hardwick’s Front Seat Coffee. Hardwick’s Galaxy Bookshop, Front Seat Coffee and The Village Restaurant were packed with visitors. Cars on Main Street and in the surrounding area were parked in every available spot, both legal and not.

Emma, that day’s Front Seat Coffee barista, reported that only she and her mother were working that day. They ran out of coffee and everything else, then closed early.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Front Seat Coffee was one of the many businesses in Hardwick that benefitted
from all of the visitors who were in town to view the eclipse, or just passing through.

Many observed an unmarked military helicopter flying over town, but only those on Montgomery Road in East Hardwick witnessed its landing in the field behind a home next to Sanborn Cemetery.

Montgomery Road neighbors Sarah and Mike Miller walked across the road to join the small crowd gathering at the unusual sight. Sarah Miller says the team of 5 or 6 Air Force service members told her they were from Long Island and were combining a mountainous terrain training mission with their trip to see the eclipse.

Alex McAndrew, another nearby neighbor, reportedly learned from the team that they were military rescue service members. McAndrew told others that they told him Vermont airports were full so they had received permission to land from the owner of the vacation home who had a West Point connection with them.

Dawn Gustafson, a Gazette employee who lives on Montgomery Road, wasn’t home at the time, but her daughter, Leah, and two grandchildren, Rosie (4) and Ellie (2) were. They walked over to see the helicopter and were invited inside for a tour.

Some animals reacted strangely to the unusual event. Carol Fairbank at Broadfork Farmstead in Greensboro said, as the sun began to dim, my ravens flew up higher and higher until they were out of sight. I couldn’t see them during totality. A video she shared on Facebook shows the birds after the eclipse, eating crumbs left over from food served to her guests that day. The ravens were seemingly unaffected by their experience.

The raven has been associated with the creation of the sun in stories of native people in the Northwestern U.S. and British Columbia in Canada. Having disguised itself as a white owl, Raven carried the sun to its place in the sky, being burned and turning black as a result.

Visitors at Caspian Lake and Highland Lodge in Greensboro began to clear out almost immediately after the sun began to reappear, but well before the last of the moon passed from the sun.

Preliminary estimates by the state Agency of Transportation are that 60,000 out-of-state vehicles were on Vermont roads. Many Vermonters were on the move too, but Vermont State Police reported just 10 accidents. State estimates are that all those vehicles brought 160,000 additional people to the state.

Caspian Lake beach was full of cars, some were parked randomly and some parking spots were occupied by eclipse viewers in chairs. There weren’t as many cars there as on a 90 degree Saturday in August, when cars would be backed up along Beach Road to Breezy Avenue at Willey’s Store, but there were easily as many people as on an 80-degree day in July, probably numbering about 100.

In nearby Barton, drivers were unaware of the dangers lurking near their parking spots. A train crashed into several parked cars according to state police. At 3:33 p.m., immediately after the eclipse, they “responded to the report of a train vs. car crash at the intersection of Eastern Ave. and High St. This crash occurred during the eclipse while vehicles were parked along all roadways in the area.

“Investigation revealed the Vermont Rail System train was traveling north on the railroad tracks when it first collided with the parked Toyota Prius, damaging the passenger side mirror. Second [car hit] collided with the Ford Explorer with [Virginia] Sullivan in the vehicle. The train contacted the front passenger side quarter panel, pushing the vehicle back approximately 5-10 feet and into the Jeep Wagoneer. Causing damage to the grill and bumper of the Wagoneer.”

The operator of the Ford Explorer, 68 year old Sullivan of Fresh Meadows, NY, was reported to have only minor injuries. She was treated at North Country Hospital in Newport. Damage to her vehicle was reported as, “Front passenger side wheel/quarter panel and rear bumper/lift gate.”

“The cause of these crashes were due to the vehicles parking on the roadway, too closely to the railroad tracks (sic),” said the police report.

The East Calais General Store, on Route 14, 12 miles from Hardwick, is the nearest stop for supplies south of town. There, owner Jess Quinn reported they saw a steady stream of customers before and after the eclipse. The deli stayed busy, but they didn’t run out of anything.

Lily Dunlop, who worked the counter that Monday said, “It was the busiest we’ve ever seen it.

Traffic was heavy throughout the area after the eclipse and may have rivaled what the town saw during the last Hardwick Reggae Festival in 2000, except this time most visitors were just passing through.

“Traffic was light throughout the day in Hardwick, according to Hardwick Police Chief, Mike Henry. “At about 4:30 PM, heavy eastbound traffic started to back up at the intersection of Wolcott and South Main Street.  The Hardwick Police and Fire Department members began directing traffic at this intersection. 

That intersection, at Hardwick’s well known blinking yellow light, is easily traversed by local drivers who understand Main Street has stop signs from both directions, but poses a challenge for those unfamiliar with it.

photo by Vanessa Fournier
Hardwick had many out-of-state visitors on eclipse day who stopped to eat
and shop along Main Street.

Henry reported that, “At one point, the heavy eastbound Route 15 traffic was backed up to Morrisville and southbound Route 14 (Craftsbury Road) was backed up past Lake Eligo. That backup was at least partly because of that blinking light, where many who are unfamiliar with it stop rather than proceeding with caution.

“The majority of motorist in the backed-up traffic were very respectful and understanding.  No traffic control was needed at the Route 14-N and Route 15 intersection because motorists were being considerate of one another in the heavy traffic.  The excessive traffic continued until about 9:30 PM. 

Route 16 south from Barton through Greensboro Bend saw a steady stream of cars following the eclipse and into the evening.

There will be a lunar eclipse on September 17 this year, where the earth will obscure the sun’s light shining on the moon. It will begin at 8:41 p.m. and reach a maximum at 10:44 p.m.

The area’s next solar eclipse will only be partial with just over 50% coverage of the sun by the moon’s shadow on March 29, 2025. The sun will rise that day partially eclipsed and reach a maximum at 6:38 a.m. from Woodbury Mountain.

By late Monday evening most of the visitors and their cars had passed through the area, leaving just photographs and memories of the rare total eclipse and the unusual events accompanying it.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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