Supplies of protective glasses needed to watch this month’s solar eclipse safely should soon be plentiful at area retailers, local tourism officials said Tuesday.
The eyewear usually is inexpensive, with some stores giving them away as a promotional item with the purchase of something else.
“There are many places selling them for $2 or less,” said Merritt McNeely, marketing director at the State Museum.
Glasses already are available at stores such as Lowe’s home improvement, Kroger supermarkets, Target and Wal-Mart, according to their websites.
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“We’ve been surprised by how fast they are selling,” said Tim Bare, manager of the Lowe’s store in West Columbia. “But we’re sitting in prime time here.”
Pitt Stop’s 34 area convenience stores are giving away a pair of glasses with the purchase of certain soft drinks.
John Tronetti, executive general manager of the company, no longer wonders if some of the 20,000 pairs will go unclaimed. “It’s picking up quite rapidly,” he said of sales related to the promotion. “I don’t think there’s going to be any left over.”
Kroger’s store in Forest Acres is seeking a new supply after selling all 800 pair received in a little more than a week, “but we don’t know if we can get more,” manager Kelly Sharpe said.
That demand isn’t surprising because the Midlands will have one of the longest periods of total eclipse on the East Coast, she said. The total eclipse is expected to last about 2 minutes and 30 seconds here.
At the State Museum, the inventory is being restocked after the museum’s supply sold out, McNeely said. Museum officials hope to have more Wednesday.
Those glasses sold at stores are in addition to the 100,000 pair that will be given away free at many of the 120 events related to the Aug. 21 eclipse, McNeely said. Most of those events – some requiring paid admission – start Aug. 18.
Free glasses will be available at libraries in Richland and Lexington counties. But in Lexington County, you must first attend one of several eclipse-related activities that begin Wednesday.
Some officials suggest obtaining what you need early, especially if you plan to view the eclipse at home. “Don’t wait until the last day,” Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall said.
Filters on the glasses let you watch the sun darken and then brighten again in the mid-afternoon without danger of vision damage.
But the glasses aren’t designed for driving a vehicle, officials said.
For people who normally wear glasses, it doesn’t matter if the protective eyewear is put over or underneath them, according to Matthew Whitehouse, observatory manager at the museum. Settle on what’s comfortable for you, he said. “As long as those filters are between your retinas and the sun, you’re fine,” Whitehouse said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
NASA warns people to be cautious when using eclipse glasses to look at the sun. Eclipse viewing glasses and hand-held solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:
▪ Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
▪ Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
▪ Not be used if they are older than three years or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
▪ Not use homemade filters
▪ Ordinary sunglasses — even very dark ones — should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or hand-held solar viewers.