A Summit County, Colorado, guide to the Great American Eclipse | SummitDaily.com

A Summit County, Colorado, guide to the Great American Eclipse

Selah, 7, and Elijah Parker, 9, of Frisco model a pair of NASA-approved eclipse glasses on Friday outside Frisco Town Hall. The glasses that prevent the sun from doing damage to someone’s eyes are hard to find in Summit County, as many stores that had them in stock have sold out ahead of Monday’s eclipse.

The Great American Eclipse will be the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse across North America in a century. The phenomenon has much of the country abuzz, transportation officials in a conundrum and thousands of people grasping for proper eye protection.

Inside the path of totality is where day turns to night, the sun's corona that has baffled scientists for generations becomes visible and the glasses can come off. It's where the most-seasoned eclipse chasers all want to be, and it begins on the Oregon coast at about 11:15 a.m. mountain standard time.

From there, the moon's shadow will sweep east, faster than a speeding bullet while cutting a line across central Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska. After that, the path of totality steams through Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee before hitting South Carolina and leaving U.S. soil for the Atlantic Ocean.

Small slices of Kansas, Illinois, North Carolina and Georgia are also in the path of totality. At its longest point, the eclipse will last just over 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Perhaps more important than anything else for a great viewing experience, however, will be the weather.

Good luck getting glasses

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In preparation for the eclipse, few people know exactly what to expect in terms of how many motorists might hit the roads, but there's already been a serious run on eclipse glasses, not just in Summit County, but across the entire country.

The concern is that gazing directly into the sun easily damages sensitive cells in the retina and can lead to long-term loss of sight. Just like NASA, local optometrists have been issuing warnings.

"We hope Summit County citizens get the message to protect their eyes so we do not have any of them in our office that night with eye damage," Karen Cook wrote in an email on behalf of Summit Eye Center. "That would make us very sad."

Finding those glasses, however, is easier said than done. Receiving a high number of calls about them, staff at the Summit County Library updated the recorded phone message: "We currently do not have any eclipse glasses available," a woman's voice states on the recording. "We do not know where they are available in Summit County; they're mostly gone."

And that's about right. Even before Friday, Walmart in Frisco, both City Market grocery stores in Dillon and Breckenridge and Lowe's in Silverthorne had all sold out, along with many other gas stations and local businesses that had previously had the glasses in stock.

With eclipse glasses few and far between, a number of people have resorted to getting creative, scouring online forums, offering to pay top dollar and, in some cases, giving up entirely on the NASA-approved specs for the kind of protection typically reserved for welding metals.

"I have had a run on them," said Roger Mathew, owner of Infinity Certified Welding who's been selling welding lenses like crazy at his regular price, just $5 each.

Mathew wasn't really expecting to sell any welding lenses for the eclipse, but it happened he was lucky enough to have just stocked up.

"At this point, I've probably sold over 100 lenses in the last two days," he said. "I had a good supply to start with it, but I wasn't prepared for as many calls as I've been fielding. I was totally caught off-guard by this."

party at A-Basin

While the most enthusiastic eclipse-seekers are lining up for their place in the shade, a handful of local events are planned in conjunction with the eclipse, including a viewing party at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and lodging specials in nearby Breckenridge.

A-Basin is hosting a solar eclipse party on Monday with a mid-mountain viewing and will be running people up and down its Black Mountain Express chairlift for free from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

In Breckenridge, Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center is offering rooms for $92 on Monday, a play on the 92 percent partial eclipse that will be visible from Summit County, provided it isn't too stormy, of course.

For the viewing party, A-Basin is expecting to have a handful of glasses and pinhole viewers on-hand Monday, but resort officials are "strongly encouraging" people to bring their own.

A booking agent at Beaver Run said Friday they still have rooms available for Sunday night as well as Monday, just not at the $92 rate. As a bonus, all reservations made at Beaver Run for Monday come with two pairs of eclipse glasses, the agent added, explaining that Beaver Run still has the glasses only "because (they) are holding on to them."

"They aren't for sale today," the agent said Friday, "but they will be on Sunday."

Traffic concerns

Finding eclipse glasses is the least of the Colorado Department of Transportation's concerns because state officials are predicating this could be "the most significant traffic event of the year."

Without a modern-day precedent to work with, nobody really knows exactly how many people will try to position themselves in the path of totality for Monday's big event.

Some have pegged the number of people who will venture into Wyoming as high as 600,000, which would more than double the state's population. Other estimates have been more conservative in the 200,000 range.

Regardless, many of those people will be coming from the south up through Colorado, and CDOT has likened expected traffic delays to "six Denver Broncos games all getting out at the same time on the same highway."

Pretty much every route from Colorado into Wyoming and Nebraska is expected to be busy, according to CDOT, with specific mentions of Interstate 25, U.S. 287, U.S. 85 and Colorado 52 as problem areas.

Traffic is expected to be even worse on Monday "after the sun shines again" and people start coming home.

As a result, state transportation officials, in conjunction with Colorado State Patrol, have put a stop on permits for oversized and overweight vehicles north of Colorado 50 through Wednesday, and they've suspended construction projects through Tuesday morning.

Eclipse resources

• NASA’s eclipse website, eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

• For Colorado traffic updates, follow CDOT on Twitter or go to COTrip.org.

• For traffic and weather alerts from Larimer County, Wyoming, text “ECLIPSE” to 888777 or go to WyoRoad.info.

• Infomationa about Arapahoe Basin’s eclipse party is at bit.ly/ABasinEclipse2017.

• A startup company focused on campsites, Hipcamp, has compiled an online data base of more than 1,000 campsites in the path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina. Find it at hipcamp.com/discover/eclipse-2017.

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