People stand Monday on Mount David in Lewiston to view the solar eclipse. The Lewiston-Auburn area had about 98% total coverage. Joe Charpentier/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — While tens of thousands ventured across the state Monday for a glimpse of the total solar eclipse, some decided to stay close to home for the celestial show.

The Lewiston-Auburn area had an eclipse viewing of about 98% totality, giving the midafternoon a late evening glow at the height of it. On the banks of the Androscoggin River, birds took flight as strange shadows formed from the crescent-shaped sun escaping total cover from the moon.

Perched atop Mount David were many families and college students. Melissa Moody said she and her family did not want to brave traffic northward, so her daughter, Mariah Reyes-Mejia, suggested the brief hike.

“We heard so many crazy stories about traffic and it’s not much different here than traveling (north) for it, so we figured we’d come up here,” Moody said. “We thought it would be a really cool experience for the kids.”

Moody’s party of six had their eclipse-viewing glasses on most of the time as the moon slowly passed in front of the sun. The adults would take the glasses off only briefly as Reyes-Mejia’s and her husband Pablo’s children, Kiani and Mateo, bounced from rock to rock.

Melissa Moody, left, views the eclipse Monday from Mount David in Lewiston with her family, including son Camden Moore, daughter Mariah Reyes-Mejia and grandson Mateo Reyes-Mejia, front. Joe Charpentier/Sun Journal

As the moon more clearly began blocking the sun, Moody pointed it out to her grandchildren.

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“Look at that, it looks like it took a little bite out of it,” Moody said to Mateo.

“It looks like a cookie!” Kiani said.

Bates College juniors Ben Auerbach of San Francisco, California, and Morgan Porter of Scarborough said they couldn’t think of a better place to meet up with friends and view the eclipse. Around 2:15 p.m., the two had just gotten out of classes and Auerbach had enough time to catch some of the eclipse before he had have to head off to another class and then crew practice.

“It’s nice seeing this is the place to look at it,” Auerbach said. “I feel like I haven’t seen many local people up here, it’s usually just us college kids, but it’s nice to see people up here.”

While Porter said the 2024 total solar eclipse is her first major celestial event, Auerbach said he drove to Salem, Oregon, with his father in 2017 to see his first total solar eclipse.

“I’m a veteran, apparently,” Auerbach laughed. “I didn’t realize not everyone was into this. This was actually my second eclipse. We wake up super early to see the Perseid Meteor Shower every year.”

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Down at Veterans Memorial Park on Main Street, next to the Androscoggin River, Guy Landry of Auburn said he planned to view the the eclipse from his backyard but then decided on a spur of the moment to head out to the park across the river in Lewiston. He said he realized too late that he forgot his pair of eclipse-viewing glasses at home, but he bumped into a group of local people who gave him a spare pair.

Susan Upham and Joan Bresnick came from Massachusetts and found themselves at the park content with their vantage point. It beat staying on the road for “who knows how many more hours,” they said. Upham’s family came from Lisbon Falls several generations ago and she thought the eclipse was a good excuse to come back to Maine, see the old family farm, enjoy some of the local food and see the eclipse.

Randy Baril looks up at the sun Monday in Dufresne Plaza in Lewiston minutes before the sun was obscured by the moon. Joe Charpentier/Sun Journal

“I’ve got to be to work tomorrow and we live south of Boston, so I figured 98% (totality) is better than the 92% back at home, so we came up and spent the night in Bath,” Upham said. “It was definitely worth the drive and, you know, it’s amazing what 2% sunlight looks like!”

Even though northbound traffic was slow and congested — one Sun Journal employee reported a 1.5-mile backup from the traffic light in Turner — there were no major accidents due to travel or “vehicular eclipse viewing.”

Shannon Moss, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesperson, said troopers were in touch with updates throughout the day on interstate roads and reported nothing for accidents related to congestion and no incidents prompting police presence.

Bill Gagne, Androscoggin County Sheriff Chief Deputy, said, “As of 3:30 p.m. it was a pretty typical day.”

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