Local Man’s Eye Burned From 1963 Solar Eclipse

NORFOLK, NE — A total solar eclipse occurs every 18 months in different parts of the world. No big deal right? Well, that's not the case this year. What makes this solar eclipse different here in the United States is that it’s the first time since 1257 that the solar eclipse path will touch only American soil. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in Nebraska was in 1963. Gene Willers of Neligh remembers that day. “There was a lot of news about the eclipse...They gave advice to not look at it and those type things." After all looking at the sun during an eclipse can cause retinal burn or permanent eye damage. “Being a farm kid and a 13-year old who knows a lot, so I thought ‘It can’t hurt to look at it through a welder's shield or helmet .' Just to be on the safe side, I looked through one eye - it was my right eye. I didn’t really look for a long time because it was blinding, even with the welder's glasses…but apparently it didn’t take a long time." Little did he know the damage that had been done to his right eye. "The next day when I woke up my eye was matted shut and swollen. I went to an optometrist and of course it was like a sunburn on my eye, plus there were indicators that retinal damage may have occurred. Not too soon after that I had to wear glasses to correct some things.” Optometrist Steve Miller says that in the past they see patients who come in with solar retinopathy. “Solar retinopathy can be permanent vision damage to the eye, the concern we have is that, especially this area, we aren't going to have total eclipse, and when you don’t have total eclipse you have a partial eclipse and you're going to be looking directly into the sun...yes more dangerous." Of course there are ways to safely watch the solar eclipse by wearing safety glasses you can pick up at a local eye clinic. Against popular belief, sunglasses won't cut it. “Some people think they are protected with regular sunglasses and they aren’t." Miller says. "No matter how dark the shade of the sunglasses, it doesn't protect you from the UV rays of the sun.