The autumnal equinox will occur at 9:04 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 22, in the Northern Hemisphere. That means it's fall, y'all! Finally! Sweater weather! Although, Mother Nature has been a tad spastic this year with at least one overnight drop into the upper 40s in late summer, before settling down again. Still, didn't it feel great? Just a sample of what was to come. Ahem, sweaters and boots are my fave attire, so please excuse my obvious enthusiasm. 🙂
Alas, fall also means pollen -- primarily ragweed and goldenrod, my personal nemeses. Yet even a near-constant drippy nose, occasional cough and a plethora of sneezing fits [it would be far, far worse without the OTC meds!] do not dim my enthusiasm for fall. And let me emphasize here, at least in my case, it is allergies, which are not contagious. 🙂
So why is it called equinox? I'm glad you asked. 🙂 The word equinox is derived from two Latin words: aequus [equal] and nox [night]. Picture in your mind the solar system, focusing on the 3rd rock from the sun and that bright star. The equinox occurs when the geometric center of the sun seemingly passes over the Earth's equator. That feat just happens to make night and day approximately the same length all over this planet. OK, technically, day remains a little longer than night due to the specific definitions of sunrise and sunset. But it happens at the same moment everywhere on Earth! Obviously due to the various time zones, the man-made clock times differ, but not the moment it happens.
Now that we've addressed the not-quite-accurate equal day and night, we can state at least one remaining truth about the equinox: The sun will rise due East and set due West. Is that a "how?" I hear you ask? For winter and summer we know the Earth is tilted on its axis. On an equinox, however, our blue-green planet is straight up and down. No tilt! So if you have a sundial, the equinox is the day you want to ensure its placement is accurate.
As you most likely know, especially if you are a seasonal reader of this page, most of Earth's ancient civilizations tracked the sun's risings and settings with standing stones [Stonehenge!] or other monuments [Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, USA, Newgrange in Ireland and even The Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt. If you are even a little bit geeky, check out the Almanac's page about those places: 6 sites aligned with the equinox or solstice.
Conveniently, September also happens to be Preparedness Month. It used to be called Disaster Preparedness Month. But that adjective disappeared long before it would have run afoul of 2020 [insert your favorite 2020 joke here].
While we may be willing to joke about the pandemic now, we all facing some new consequences on this globe that will not be a laughing matter. Food and energy shortages both appear on the horizon. So, just like a Scout: Be prepared for any eventuality.
And what can we expect in terms of fall weather safety? According to the National Weather Service, one should "Know your risk, take action, and be a force of nature! [Their] Fall Weather Safety presentation features tips for dealing with fall hazards: drought, floods, fog, hurricanes, tsunamis, wind, wildfire and winter weather. This fall, get informed and be ready, responsive and resilient to the hazards of extreme weather." And to do just that, view their Fall Weather Safety presentation here.
Ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Safety, is plumb chockful of information to, hopefully, prepare you for most any eventuality. This includes having a plan before you need it, building a kit, preparing for a disaster and teaching the kiddos about preparedness. Detailed info on how to do each of those is available here.
The National Institutes of Health has a great list of disaster preparedness tips: including preparation, during, after, things you'll need, and evacuation.
We would be remiss not to include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a valuable resource for preparedness information. They have a page devoted to various links about protecting yourself and loved ones. These tips include sheltering in place, coping, information for specific types of emergencies, among others as well as links to Federal Emergency Management Agency [better known as FEMA], the American Red Cross and Ready Wrigley for kids.