Upstate of South Carolina Prepares for Solar Eclipse: Safety Measures and School Closures

March 27, 2024

The Upstate of South Carolina is gearing up for the next solar eclipse, slated for Monday, April 8, 2024. This natural phenomenon occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, causing a temporary shadow. In Laurens County, the eclipse is expected to last several hours, with approximately 80-85% coverage anticipated between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. As anticipation grows, it’s crucial to prioritize safety, especially concerning eye protection, during this remarkable event.

Understanding Solar Eclipses: Phenomenon and Risks

While witnessing this natural wonder is undeniably mesmerizing, it’s essential to recognize the associated risks, especially concerning eye safety.

Staring directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, can lead to severe and irreversible damage to the eyes’ delicate tissues, including the retina and cornea. Symptoms of eye damage may not manifest immediately, but they can include blurriness or even a hole in central vision.

Safely Viewing the Eclipse: Precautions and Recommendations

To safely view the eclipse, it’s imperative to use proper eye protection. Eclipse glasses or binoculars equipped with solar filters meeting the ISO 12312-2 international standard are strongly recommended. These specialized filters effectively block harmful UV rays, safeguarding the eyes from harm. It’s crucial to verify that eclipse glasses display the ISO number and logo, as well as the manufacturer’s name, and to inspect them for any damage before use.

Contrary to popular belief, regular sunglasses, even those with UV protection, are insufficient for viewing a solar eclipse and can’t adequately shield the eyes from harm. Likewise, devices like telescopes, binoculars, and cameras must be equipped with solar filters to prevent damage to both the equipment and the eyes.

For those unable to access proper eye protection or prefer indirect viewing methods, creating a pinhole projector offers a safe alternative. By projecting the sun’s image onto a surface using a pinhole, viewers can observe the eclipse indirectly without risking eye damage.

Alternative Viewing Options: NASA Livestream

Recognizing the importance of safety, NASA will livestream the eclipse, ensuring that individuals can experience the event even in the case of inclement weather or if they’re unable to witness it firsthand. This live broadcast allows spectators to enjoy the eclipse safely from the comfort of their homes.

School Preparations: Early Dismissals and Safety Measures

Understanding the potential risks, local schools are taking proactive measures to prioritize student safety. Both Laurens County School District 55 (LCSD55) and Laurens County School District 56 (LCSD56) have announced early dismissal on the day of the eclipse. This decision aims to minimize the risk of students inadvertently exposing their eyes to the sun’s harmful rays during dismissal times.

LCSD55 will dismiss students early to prioritize safety, with elementary students being released at 11:30 AM, middle school students at 11:45 AM, and high school students at 12:00 PM. The district expressed concerns about potential eye injuries during dismissal times, particularly as the eclipse is expected to reach 80-85% coverage between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m.

Similarly, LCSD56 will adjust its schedule, with MS Bailey students released at 11:30 AM, elementary students at 11:45 AM, and middle and high school students at 12:00 PM. By implementing a half-day schedule and suspending afterschool programs, both districts aim to minimize the risk of students inadvertently exposing their eyes to the sun’s harmful rays during peak eclipse viewing hours.

The start time for athletic events and practice in both districts will be adjusted to ensure safety of the students.

As we eagerly anticipates the upcoming solar eclipse, it’s crucial for residents to prioritize safety and adhere to recommended viewing guidelines. By taking appropriate precautions, individuals can safely enjoy this remarkable celestial event without compromising their eye health.