Solar eclipse glasses sold out across Winnipeg

Chances are if you haven't already bought the special glasses needed to safely watch the partial solar eclipse on Monday you may be out of luck. They've been flying off store shelves since last week.
The Manitoba Museum and Manitoba Association of Optometrists said thousands of specialized eclipse glasses sold out in just a matter of days. (Clare Bonnyman/CBC)

Chances are if you haven't already bought the special glasses needed to safely watch the partial solar eclipse on Monday you may be out of luck. They've been flying off store shelves since last week.

"We sold out on Thursday early afternoon and we weren't really surprised," said Jody Tresoor, a communications specialist with the Manitoba Museum.

Eclipse glasses are sold out everywhere in Winnipeg, including optometrist offices, welding and automobile shops, and the museum. 

"I think with the combination of social media and people becoming a whole lot more aware of things, and the rarity of an eclipse experience, we think we sold somewhere around 10,000 pairs from our museum shop," Tresoor said. 

There's been a lot of excitement ahead of the partial solar eclipse, she said. 

Tresoor said 5,000 pairs of eclipse glasses were also distributed to optometrist offices across the city, and those glasses have all sold out too, according to the Manitoba Association of Optometrists.

But Tresoor said there are still some options to experience the event even if you don't have the specialized glasses.

Viewing party with live feed from NASA

The Manitoba Museum will host a viewing party in the plaza outside the planetarium beginning at 11:30 am Monday, and there will also be a live feed of the solar eclipse from NASA with scientists and experts on hand to answer questions.

"We're going to have a number of telescopes available for people to look up at the moving moon that will be equipped with special solar filters to ensure there's no damage to any eyes," Tresoor said.

She said if it rains or if it's too cloudy the viewing party will be taken inside the planetarium which accommodate around 500 people.

We don't carry anything strong enough to be viewing the eclipse but everything we carry is sold out. - Alyssa Bartel, Princess Auto 

There's been such a high demand for eclipse glasses that Princess Auto in Winnipeg sold out of all their welding lenses.

"Pretty much in the last week and a half people have just been calling and calling and calling, asking us if we carry anything," said Alyssa Bartel, a team leader trainee at Princess Auto.

Bartel said while the company doesn't sell the type of welding glasses that are considered safe for viewing a solar eclipse, she said many people still purchased welding lenses and masks of all types.

"We don't carry anything strong enough to be viewing the eclipse but everything we carry is sold out," she said.

According to the Manitoba Association of Optometrists the only safe way to look directly at the sun is through specialized solar filters. If using welder's lenses, it recommends a shade level rating of 14 or higher.

Bartel said her staff have been warning customers about the safety concerns. 

"Some people I don't think are fully heeding the recommendations that we're giving them because as I said, we are sold out of all our lenses."

Bartel said she believes it's the first time that's ever happened.

"I don't think I've ever sold out of welding lenses," she laughs. "Although it's kind of cool, I definitely wish that we had something a little stronger because it would be awesome to be able to provide people with what they're looking for."

Optometrists urge caution

"I hesitate recommending giving those out unless people actually know what they're doing with welding glasses," said Dr.Irene Mestito-Dao, an optometrist with the Manitoba Association of Optometrists.

Mestito-Dao said it's concerning to learn that people have been purchasing welding glasses that may not be safe to use to view the eclipse.

"The fear of course is when you're looking at the eclipse, it's different, and people are going to stare at it longer than they really should, but you're never really supposed to stare at the sun anyways."

There are also eclipse glasses being posted for sale on Kijiji in Winnipeg from $30 to $50 a pair. But Mestito-Dao believes the best way to watch the eclipse is to share the specialized glasses if possible.

"Share!" she said. "If you know someone that already has it, if they can let you view with it for a few seconds or minutes, that's probably the best way that we could hope more people get the chance to see the eclipse."