Eclipse viewers in Central Florida look for ways to beat weather

Eclipse – A crowd roared at the Orlando Science Center when staff members, at long last, opened the door to the building’s terrace, just in time for the start of the first total solar eclipse viewable from Central Florida in nearly a century.

It was a frustrating wait before then. Hundreds of people packed the science center, even as staff members reminded them that they could set up outside of the science center, where multiple telescopes were provided for visitors.

Just after 1:19 p.m., visitors wearing special glasses handed out by staff members could look at the sky and see the beginning of the event.

“I try to take advantage of these things,” said Jeremy Garcia, who had brought his 10-year-old daughter Alanii to see the eclipse. “How many times will we have a chance to do something like this?”

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For the first time since June 8, 1918, a total solar eclipse has started to blot out the sun. At its peak, it will cover more than 85 percent of the sun in Orlando.

Staff members have been helping guests create their own special glasses and filters for camera phones, in case they want to share their eclipse selfies.

Longwood resident Courtney Lacy regularly visits the science center with her daughter Alanna. She said events like the eclipse offer a chance to teach.

“It’s just educational,” she said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Solar eclipse in Orlando

Experts have said that not using special filtered glasses could lead to major eye damage.

Overcast skies threatened to temper the excitement but the terrace was packed with people gazing skyward, through phones and glasses.

As hundreds of visitors crowded the center’s four floors, some sat to the side, waiting for the observatory’s opening.

Casselberry resident Janise O’hara said she was surprised there were so many people at the science center.

”I didn’t think it would be so busy,” she said. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

The moon began its 175-minute trek in front of the sun at 1:19 p.m., just as the observatory was opened.

The moon will pass over the sun completely by 4:14 p.m., with the eclipse hitting its peak at about 2:51 p.m.

Soar eclipse in Orlando

The Orlando Science Center, University of Central Florida and Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center have been hosting public viewings of the eclipse, handing out special eyewear that allows viewers to check it out.

At Universal Studios Florida, the theme park is operating today like normal, said a spokesman, adding there will not be glasses available.

At SeaWorld, the nighttime lights are being turned on until 5 p.m.

Disney plans to operate in nighttime mode, with Magic Kingdom’s Tom Sawyer Island closing at 2 p.m. for the rest of the day. Some attractions at Blizzard Beach Water Park or Animals Trails at Animal Kingdom could stop Monday afternoon depending on the light levels.

Solar eclipse in Orlando

Glasses are not available at Disney.

Universal, SeaWorld and Disney theme parks also put up safety signs for visitors, warning of the eclipse. SeaWorld’s signs are in English, Spanish and Portuguese, for instance.

The buzz for the eclipse has been growing as it has approached. This eclipse will be the first to be visible across the country.

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Its “path of totality,” or the place where 100 percent of the sun will be blocked, cuts generally southeast through the U.S. from Salem, Ore., to Charleston, S.C.

Gabrielle Russon contributed; Got a news tip? msantana@orlandosentinel.com or Twitter, @marcosantana