WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - On a day that felt like a national holiday for an entire nation, a total solar eclipse briefly plunged Central Oregon into darkness Monday morning while providing some stunning celestial imagery.
The region became a hub for eager sky-watchers from all over the world. Many of them arrived in the small town of Warm Springs well before the sun came up - just to watch it disappear - and they were not disappointed.
The line of traffic began while it was still dark. People headed to the Indian Head Casino, the nearby town of Madras or any other good vantage point. Thousands crowded into these rural communities for an unobstructed view of the rare event.
"You can look around the country and it's cloudy everywhere," said Californian Steve Loney. "Here it's going to be beautiful clear skies, totality. What more can you ask for? It's a great place."
Eclipse dazzles sky-watchers in Central Oregon
Loney and his friends came to Oregon from Riverside and Ventura, respectively. Other sky-watchers came from Denmark, Spain and China -- all for a chance to stand in the path of totality. They wore their eclipse glasses, brought out their cameras and waited.
"I'm excited," said Yvette Gonzalez of Pasadena. "My first eclipse ever -- got my glasses ready and we got about a half an hour left. So we are excited."
Then, at 10:19 a.m., day turned into night, the temperature dropped and the crowd stood in darkness for more than 2 minutes. Some whooped and cheered. Others were silent, in awe.
One man described the experience as "extremely cool - once in a lifetime - at least in my lifetime anyway."
"It was well worth the 11-hour drive to get up here to see it," he said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat."
The next solar eclipse is expected to be visible from parts of the U.S. in 2024.