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Thousands crowd Plattsburgh’s city beach to view the total solar eclipse

Thousands of people congregated at the Plattsburgh City Beach on Monday to watch the moon cross the sun leading to totality.

Northern New York and Vermont were some of the best areas of the country to view totality. The good weather drew huge crowds to the region. With more than 5,000 vehicles parked at the city beach, officials began diverting the overflow to other viewing sites across the area.

John Curran came from Hoboken, New Jersey.

“My son and I we come up often to hike in the Adirondacks and we’re working on our 46 patches so we’re familiar with the area," Curran noted. "We wanted to get a hotel in the area but everything was so expensive or booked we stayed overnight in Montreal and then came back down to Plattsburgh to watch the eclipse.”

This was the second eclipse Curran has seen and he brought his two children, age 7 and 2-and-a-half.

“I read that Annie Dillard essay which hits the nail on the head. It gives you a sense of your place in the family of things," said Curran. "You can get a sense of the curve of the earth, the scale of the moon and the sun and in comparison to you and it also gives you a sense of the precariousness of life. So much depends on the sun.”

As the afternoon progressed more and more eyes protected by solar glasses gazed at the sky.

An announcer reminds the crowd, "Again Please wear your glasses if you stare directly at the sun!"

Hundreds of filtered cameras joined mobile phones pointed skyward. But some people were watching the eclipse using other methods. Along Lake Champlain’s shoreline a group from Brooklyn used a pinhole box to watch the moon’s transit across the sun. Yachov Herzog says they decided to try the technique because his sister had been teaching kids sun reflection techniques.

“That is basically an alternative if you don’t have the glasses," said Herzog. "You have three holes. You could do one, but I did three. And the shine comes into the hole but when it’s like about 40 percent covered you will also see inside the reflection 40 percent covered. When it’s totally covered it’s not going to be interesting to look at it but you could see as the time goes that it’s getting less and less the shine from the sun inside.”

As totality approached the temperature noticeably dropped and ambient colors changed. A midday sunset of amber, orange and deep blue formed caressing the surrounding mountains and lake. The darkness increasingly brought people into silhouette and as the moon and sun reached totality the crowd cheered.

For about three and a half minutes people looked heavenward and then an explosive burst of light signaled the completion of totality.

Jim Cioffi came from Boston.

“One thing that I really liked that caught me totally off guard was when the moon moved away from the sun and that little flash of light coming off it was, that was like, I, spectacular," Cioffi exclaims. "Caught me totally off guard. I love that and everyone just started cheering. You felt the excitement of the crowd. Everything was amazing. And seeing the sunset at 3:25 in the afternoon is crazy. But it was super fun and we had a great time and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to come down here and it was amazing, spectacular.”

Jordan Cioffi, Jim’s son, was equally excited to have seen the eclipse.

“That stuff was crazy. I mean I saw it online before but to see it in person it’s like a completely different experience," Cioffi said. "To see when the sun’s completely covered by the moon with the white ring around it and it gets completely dark, it gets quieter, colder. It’s like surreal. To be here in person and see one like really it’s insane.”

David Kennedy from Patchogue on Long Island had been keeping tabs on the best viewing weather before driving to Plattsburgh.

“It was beautiful. It’s just amazing," enthuses Kennedy. "This was just a little extra length of totality and you feel like you’re standing out in space during that whole totality experience. One of my favorite children’s books was The Little Prince and the very famous iconic cover is a child standing on a planet and that’s what you feel like during an eclipse.”

The North Country Chamber says the eclipse drew an estimated 200,000 people to the greater region with visitors to Clinton County arriving from all 50 states, four Canadian provinces and several countries.