No need to panic over eclipse

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Americans love to panic. We seem to flourish when there’s something on the horizon to worry or fret about. We are quick to toss common sense out the window and imagine the worst possible scenarios.

If you doubt that, pay attention this winter when the forecast calls for a chance of 2-4 inches of snow and then try to find a gallon of milk.

But snow panic takes a back seat to some of the other causes for concern in the minds of many Americans.

Harken back to the waning days of 1999. America was still learning to navigate the information superhighway of the Internet and computers were becoming more common in every home and our lives. Just when we thought we had adapted to the the latest technology, we were told our cyberworld was about to be turned upside down by something called Y2K.

Word got out and spread quickly that computers were not going to be able to recognize the year 2000 and computers across the globe were going to shut down. Utilities, schools, governments and businesses spent untold amounts of money and time dedicated to taking safeguards. The media were invited to tour power plants to see what measures they had taken to avoid any glitches or interruptions of service come midnight on New Years Eve.

But Y2K came and went with only the most minimal of problems. All the fear and hype were unwarranted.

A decade earlier, similar fears gripped Kentucky and other states along the Mississippi River because of one lone man’s prediction that the New Madrid fault line was going to cause a catastrophic earthquake in early December of 1990.

Now, history will tell us that the New Madrid fault line is active, and actually produced an earthquake of such magnitude in the early 1800s, that it caused the Mississippi River to actually flow backwards for a while.

Iben Browning’s predictions, with little scientific data or evidence to back him up, soon produced rumors and fear that led to school districts all over Kentucky to actually cancel classes on the day he said the earth would not stand still. He was wrong and the only thing that was shaking were the heads of those who had enough sense not to fall for the hype.

Later this month, Kentuckians will be able to view an eclipse. That means, the sun will be blocked out for a couple of minutes, it will be darker than normal, and then after the moon passes, things will return to normal.

It’s a unique event and understandably it’s drawing attention. But the rush to cancel school out of fears of the darkness and safety concerns seems to be a bit overblown.

Apparently, common sense may be even more rare than a total eclipse.