Eclipse glasses

Eclipse glasses are essential to safely view today's solar eclipse.

SPECIAL ILLUSTRATION

The countdown is over. The day has arrived.

Much of The T&D Region is today a prime place for viewing – if the weather cooperates -- a total solar eclipse that will sweep across the country in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the forecast calls for 60 percent cloud cover and a small chance of scattered showers.

The eclipse will begin around 1:14 p.m. in Orangeburg, reaching totality at approximately 2:43 p.m. Totality will end two to three minutes later after 2:45 p.m. The partial eclipse will be over at 4:07 p.m.

The temperature is expected to be up to 90 degrees with a heat index of up to 97 degrees at around 2 p.m. It’s expected to drop some during totality.

Everyone is reminded of the importance of safely viewing Monday's eclipse.

"There's nothing special about the light that comes through during an eclipse. If you went out right now and looked at the sun, you could damage your eyes by looking at it directly," said Dr. Donald K. Walter, a physics professor at South Carolina State University. "The sunlight is just so intense that it can burn your retina.”

Dr. Michael McMullen, an ophthalmologist with the Orangeburg Eye Center, said, “Looking at the sun during an eclipse even for a short amount of time can cause permanent eye damage, so there are some steps people need to take to view it safely.”

Most will use special eclipse glasses for viewing the phenomenon. Eclipse glasses must meet the international standard of ISO 12312-2. Glasses are available today at many eclipse events and from retailers such as Edisto Piggly Wiggly, Walmart and Lowe’s. No. 14 or darker welder's glass are also safe for viewing.

Ordinary sunglasses will not prevent damage to the eyes when viewing the eclipse. “Even if you stack sunglasses on top of sunglasses, it won't do,” Walter said.

The only time it will be safe to watch the eclipse without safety glasses is when the moon totally blacks out the sun. But if you are in doubt about totality, don’t look without the eclipse glasses.

"That'll last about a little more than two minutes and 20 seconds and then it'll start to get bright again,” Walter said. “You'll then immediately put your glasses back on.”

Projection, or indirect, viewing is also safe. It can be done in a number of ways, including taking an index card and punching a fine needle point into it.

"You hold that index card between the sun and another sheet of paper or the ground, and the image of the sun will appear on that other sheet of paper or the ground. You're not seeing the direct sun. It's going to be a little image, but you can see the sun as a crescent depending on where it is during the eclipse," Walter said.

A camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device should be used to view the eclipse ONLY with a special solar filter on its front.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks any part of the sun. A rare total solar eclipse is only possible when the sun and moon line up just right and the moon blocks the sun’s entire surface. Partial solar eclipses occur when the alignment is such that the moon blocks only part of the sun. Partial eclipses occur more frequently.

The total eclipse will be visible along a thin, roughly 100 mile-wide path that runs diagonally across America from Oregon to South Carolina. Starting about 2:39 p.m., viewers who have gathered in areas from Charleston through Columbia and on to Greenville will experience the longest period of 100 percent total eclipse on the East Coast — ranging from two minutes and 30 seconds to two minutes and 36 seconds of total darkness.

South Carolina officials estimate an influx of up to 2 million visitors in the state for several days on either side of the eclipse, with nearly everything above capacity. Heavy traffic is predicted.

The S.C. Department of Transportation has three key don’ts for motorists during the eclipse:

• DO NOT stop on roadways to view the eclipse.

• DO NOT park on highway shoulders to view the eclipse.

• DO NOT drive while wearing solar eclipse glasses.

AAA Carolinas further advises:

• Turn on your headlights well before the eclipse to help you be more visible to drivers and improve your visibility.

• Reduce speed so you'll have more time to make an emergency maneuver.

• Watch out for pedestrians! There may be people standing in or along roadways and streets watching the eclipse.

• Don't depend only on cell phones for navigation. Cell towers could be bogged down and coverage could be spotty in some areas.

To keep up with road conditions, SCDOT’s 511 Traveler Information system provides real-time traffic information on all South Carolina interstate highways and some of the highways along the coast. Users can call 511, access the system online at www.511SC.org or download the free app.

Walter said the total eclipse will prove to be a once-in-a-life time event for many. "It's an amazing event. It's like no event that any of us have ever seen before.”

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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