Walmart, Dillons and the local optometrist sold out of solar eclipse viewing glasses in Pratt weeks and days before the August 21 solar eclipse, but Swinehart Automotive offers welding helmets and lenses for those needing last minute eye protection.
The Great American Solar Eclipse is coming to Kansas, but those in Pratt will be hard-pressed to find certified viewing glasses if they don't already have a viewing plan in place. Maydew Thibault Optometry sold out of the paper goggles last week. Dillons grocery store sold out two days ago, and yesterday Walmart put up signs saying they were sold out of solar eclipse glasses and would not be getting any more in.
"We've had so many people coming in or calling to see if we can still have any of the glasses but we cannot get any more in," said Judy Looper, a Pratt Walmart department manager.
Looper said they were sorry for the inconvenience but the glasses were hard to come by across the state.
Dillon's general manager Bobby Berens agreed and said non of their competition had any certified glasses left to distribute or sale either.
"We were getting ours through a third-party distributor," Berens said. "When we ran out I called Great Bend and Hutchinson stores and found out that they are all sold out too."
He said the store sold more than 100 pairs of solar eclipse viewing goggles in the past week, but he forgot to reserve a pair for himself.
"I actually have that day off so I was looking forward to seeing this," he said. "Maybe I will go to school and watch with my first-grade daughter if they allow that."
Southwest Elementary assistant secretary Claudia Rodriguez said that several teachers at the school had ordered special solar eclipse glasses, but some had now decided not to use them as they could not certify that they were they official strength needed for optimal eye protection.
"If the lens did not come from a verifiable source, many of the teachers are opting to watch the solar eclipse in their classrooms on the internet," Rodriquez said.
At Maydew Thibault Optometry, certified para optometric Katie Deda said her office sold more than 300 pairs of the special glasses last week, some of which went to local school teachers. There were not enough to go around, however.
"We couldn't get a confirmation of shipping to get them here before Monday so we did not order any more," Deda said.
She cautioned that those without the special glasses should not view the solar eclipse without protection.
"If you look at the solar eclipse without taking precautions it will cause solar maculopathy," she said. "It will leave you with a blind spot on your eyes for the rest of your life."
Options for viewing, other than certified eclipse glasses, include making a pin-hole box or wearing welding helmets or welding goggles with high strength lenses.
Swinehart Automotive/NAPA Auto Parts at 114. N. Main Street is offering welding lenses, goggles and helmets for those who would like to try that option.
"We have the welding goggles that are certified at level 5 for sale and lenses in two different sizes that are certified at levels 9, 10 and 11," said Renaldo Cabrell.
He said the goggles at level 5 were appropriate for cutting torch use and the darker shades appropriate for welding. Both should work for solar eclipse viewing he thought. NASA recommends safety lens certification at 12 according to information found on their website at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
The darker lenses at 9, 10 and 11 certification could be mounted on a head-band or other pair of glasses. They came in sizes 3 to 4 inches long or 5 X 5 inch squares.
Cabrell said his store also has welding helmets for sale with even darker certification but they start at $80 each.
He said he had seen several lunar eclipses in his lifetime but this was the first time he had the opportunity to see a solar eclipse. He hoped to get a chance to step out of the store at the right time and catch a glimpse of what everyone seems to be excited about.
A partial solar eclipse should be visible in Pratt between 1 and 1:15 p.m. with the path of totality crossing the far northeastern corner of the state around 1:13 p.m. on Monday, August 21. The eclipse will last only 2 minutes and 40 seconds at each point of reference as it travels across the United States starting at 10:17 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) in Depoe Bay, Oregon on the west coast and ending at 2:47 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) in Charleston, South Carolina on the east coast.