A near total solar eclipse passed over Statesboro and Bulloch County Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, thick cloud cover obscured the 97-percent pinnacle of nature's unique show from local eyes. In fact, about an hour after the moon started to cover the sun at 1:15 p.m., clouds made the effects of the eclipse mostly impossible to see.
Twelve-year-old Bailey Evans, who had hoped to join her classmates from Southeast Bulloch Middle School in SEB's football stadium for an eclipse viewing, summed up the disappointment with the perspective of her youth: "Well, I thought I would see a (solar) eclipse while I was young, but now I'll have to wait until I'm 70!"
Earlier in the day, the stir of excitement could be felt on all three halls of Southeast Bulloch Middle, as students, teachers and staff waited for the "Great American Eclipse." And just as the entire school was ready to walk to the high school's football stadium for an eclipse party, clouds covered the sun, followed by a downpour of rain and lightning flashes.
So, teachers held the classes inside and continued the learning process. Kids in Bob Deckard's sixth-grade earth science class watched the eclipse on television, happening live in Jefferson City, Missouri. Deckard was as excited about the eclipse as his students and said he'd never seen a total eclipse but may vaguely remembers a partial eclipse in the early 1990s.
"We have a big astronomy unit that we'll get to this year where we learn about earth, moon and sun relationships extensively, but any time you can get some first-hand, real experiences is wonderful," Deckard said.
About the same time, clouds were covering the downtown Statesboro area, and at 2:30 p.m. a smattering of people came out of offices, the courthouses and the Averitt Center. They were hoping for the sun to break through if only for a few moments at the 2:44 time of the moon covering 97 percent of the sun, but they left disappointed.
Downtown street light sensors reacted to the darkening conditions at 2:35 p.m. and came on for about 15 minutes. But that was the only effect of the eclipse easily evident downtown.
At Southeast Bulloch
Back across the county, when the rain stopped at Southeast Bulloch, students and teachers filed into the parking lot to experience at least part of the darkness. No glasses were needed as clouds dimmed the sun completely, but the kids seemed exuberant nonetheless.
Fifth-grader Katie Ann Shaver, 11, used big words like "hybrid eclipse" and "annular eclipse turning to a total eclipse" when she spoke of what she'd learned earlier in class. Hadley Saxon, also 11, said, "I learned that the best way to save your sight was to use certified glasses and use a special lens for telescopes."
Students expressed disappointment, yet there was a palpable feeling that a historic moment had just taken place.
At Georgia Southern
Like eclipse watchers at Southeast Bulloch Middle School and downtown Statesboro, students and staff at Georgia Southern University viewed Monday's eclipse with mixed feelings.
Solar eclipse glasses were handed out at the university's Dining Commons starting at 1 p.m., but supplies ran out by 1:20 p.m.. Hundreds of students had been waiting in a line that stretched from the dining hall to the Russell Union.
Ainsley Stephens, 19, from Augusta, and her friends waited in line for about an hour.
"A lot of my friends are going to South Carolina today. For them, they don't have classes on Mondays," Stephens said.
"At least people didn't drive to see this," said Steve Hooley, 63, of Statesboro. "There are people that drove to the Columbia (South Carolina) area of totality, and it's probably just like this there."
Some of the students appreciated just being outside for the event.
"It's cool just to experience it even if I can't see it ... just being here in the moment," said Sam Cordle, 20, from Atlanta.
Some people stepped outside to watch the sky right around the eclipse's climax and were still able to enjoy it, despite the weather.
Savannah Brock, 18, from Richmond Hill, said, "You usually see (eclipses) in videos or pictures, and it was really cool to see it firsthand, even if it's only for a minute ... but you've got to see it so you can say you've seen an eclipse."
Julie Lavender, Julia Fechter and Jim Healy contributed to this report.