April 6, 2024

Severe thunderstorms might blot out the eclipse for parts of the U.S.

A long-duration spell of rainy, stormy weather will cover much of the southern United States through the upcoming week, kicking off with a round of severe thunderstorms on the southern Plains on Monday.

Did you know there's also a total solar eclipse happening on Monday? I know! They kept that secret really well.

It's going to be a strange day across the area as thunderstorms are expected to coincide with the moon's shadow as it passes over the region, blotting out the sun for several minutes along the path of totality.

Some lucky folks in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas will see three to four full minutes of night-like darkness at the peak of the eclipse early Monday afternoon, complete with colors on the horizon that make it appear as if you're surrounded by a 360° sunset.

Millions of visitors are flocking to the path of totality across the U.S. and Canada hoping to catch a glimpse of the special moment. Darkness descends regardless of cloud cover, but folks who manage to see the total eclipse amid clear skies will experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

The position of the total solar eclipse in five-minute increments, overlaid on the SPC's severe weather outlook for Monday.

But those pesky clouds are likely going to get in the way for much of the eclipse's track across the southern U.S.

A trough digging across the southern Rockies to begin the week will kick off a round of strong to severe thunderstorms throughout the southern Plains. Widespread severe weather is expected through Monday afternoon and evening, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Much of the action will focus on Texas, with a risk for severe storms spilling into neighboring states.

Damaging wind gusts and "very large" hail are the predominant risks with Monday's storms, the SPC said in its outlook on Saturday. This is a little riskier than normal given the number of people visiting the region. The risk for traffic jams is bad news on a normal severe weather day, let alone when there's a hailstorm during a mass exodus.

View-wise, it's not the end of the world if your view of the eclipse is obscured by clouds. Storms popped up here in North Carolina during the August 2017 eclipse. We had 94 percent coverage of the sun at the peak of the eclipse, and I could still see the crescent sun through the storm clouds that day.

If nothing else, this will be an interesting case study for how the eclipse affects active weather. I wrote a bit about how eclipses affect the weather for The Weather Network last year.

Temperatures noticeably drop along the path of totality, so much so that we see fair-weather cumulus clouds dissipate for several hours in the wake of the moon's shadow. The temporary loss of daytime heating may have a tiny effect on any thunderstorms ongoing during totality.

Looking beyond the eclipse, stormy weather will continue throughout the week as a robust and slow-moving low-pressure system develops.

Aside from the risk for more rounds of  severe thunderstorms, we could see a threat for widespread flooding 3-5+ inches of rain falls on a huge swath of the south and Ohio Valley through the end of the week.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.