UPDATE: Eclipse forecast remains tricky, stormy, meteorologists say Wednesday

This graphic from the National Weather Service highlights portions of Arkansas that were forecast Wednesday, April 3, 2024 to have low visibility (in red) during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (National Weather Service/X)
This graphic from the National Weather Service highlights portions of Arkansas that were forecast Wednesday, April 3, 2024 to have low visibility (in red) during the total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. (National Weather Service/X)

Predicting the weather and cloud cover in anticipation for Monday’s eclipse is still tricky, forecasters with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock said Wednesday.

Forecasters said this is the time of year when weather conditions are “the most changeable.”

The current weather pattern suggests the weather could “provide moisture, clouds, and chances of showers/thunderstorms from southern Arkansas to the Gulf Coast,” the weather service said in an eclipse briefing released on Wednesday.

There is also a risk of severe weather in southwest Arkansas, the briefing stated.

Thunder may follow the historic eclipse, as forecasters said it appears that the storms will develop later in the afternoon or at night, after the eclipse occurs.

The main concerns with the storms will be damaging winds and large hail, the briefing said.

While that is happening, a cold front will try to bring drier air and partial clearing to the northern sections of Arkansas.

Better viewing conditions will be possible in the upper half of the state, compared to the lower half, the weather service said.

“In the path of totality, there is currently a medium to high chance of viewing the eclipse the farther north you go, including portions of northern into central Arkansas. There is a medium to low chance farther south,” the briefing said.

Little Rock, Hot Springs, Conway and Russellville are included in the areas forecast to have a medium chance of favorable viewing conditions.

In the path of totality, the briefing stated that “eclipse viewing conditions are most favorable the farther north you go, including parts of northern Arkansas into Missouri.”

“The main takeaway is there is still some uncertainty in determining cloud cover across the path of totality,” the briefing said.

Monday, April 1, 6:40 p.m. | Weather forecast for Arkansas’ eclipse day looks stormy:

The first substantial weather forecast detailing potential conditions during the April 8 total solar eclipse in Arkansas was unveiled Monday by the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.

According to the weather service, a large storm system will likely be over the southwest United States on April 8.

With that system comes a south-to-southwest flow that could bring an increase in moisture, the possibility of clouds and chances of showers throughout the path of totality in the state.

Yes, that means large portions of Arkansas may have their view of the historic eclipse obscured come Monday afternoon.

And it may be wet.

However, the weather service doesn't want to rain on the parade just yet.

"Despite vast improvements of weather models in recent years, any information over more than a few days of a specific time is subject to change," the weather service said in its eclipse briefing. "Forecast details will be fine tuned as additional data is received up to the time of the eclipse."

In a follow-up interview, meteorologist Eric Green went deeper on the preliminary forecast.

"The degree of confidence for now is obviously going to be on the lower side; we're seven days out," Green said. "As far as forecasting parameters, there's not a lot that you can say definitively. Things like upper-level patterns, you usually have a pretty good idea, or you can start to assign a higher degree of confidence at that range. Talking about cloud cover, it's going to change; for now, and the pattern is, obviously, has not been showing a very favorable pattern, particularly if you're further southwest from us."

Green said there are upper-level wind patterns forecast for multiple areas of the country, including the Northern Plains, potentially the Midwest and the Southwest.

Those patterns are conducive for, at the minimum, increased cloud cover, and potentially rain and thunderstorms.

"Now, in the long-range guidance it's bound to change, but that pattern is becoming a little bit more consistent now as we're getting within the seven- to 10-day range," Green said.

As for when the forecast will be more concrete, Green said that's "always the burning question."

"As far as cloud cover goes, and precipitation, you probably have a pretty high degree of certainty, at least me personally, I'd say within three days," Green said. "The writing on the wall has kind of been shaping up a little bit for a few days now. And it looks like what's the main difference here is what type of cloud cover will we be potentially seeing."

Had Christie Graham, executive director of Russellville's Tourism and Visitor's Center, had a chance to look at the forecast by Monday afternoon?

"Unfortunately, I have," Graham said in a phone interview.

With the prospect of clouds potentially casting a shadow on Russellville's big day near the epicenter of totality, Graham said her people are "kind of watching it and still hopeful that it might move out maybe on the Tuesday, so we've got our fingers crossed."

After an afternoon department meeting to discuss potential changes to its festivities because of weather, Graham said the only change would be press conferences' being relocated to City Hall.

"There's just not a lot you can change," Graham said.

Russellville has a lot planned for April 8, including being the location of an official NASA broadcast.

Also, it will play host to visiting astronomers from France and a former space shuttle astronaut, and it will be the site of a mass wedding event at the city's soccer field.

"When you bring all that in, it just shows that the community and the town has embraced this and we've done a great job and we're ready and it's exciting," Graham said. "It'll be one of the largest things that we've ever had come to Russellville, rain or shine."

Back in the fall, Graham said the city of 29,000 in Pope County had been told to expect upwards of 100,000 additional people come April 8.

On Monday, Graham said "most" of the city's hotels are sold out a week ahead of time.

"It's picked up a whole lot," Graham said. "Our calls for the day parking have just increased astronomically. We knew we would either pick up or back off depending upon weather and we just didn't know, but by the pattern of the phone calls and the hotel occupancy rates, it has picked up a lot. We're just expecting a whole lot of people."

Other visitors will include reporters from CNN, The Washington Post, PBS and ABC.

There's no hard number on the amount of people that Graham is expecting.

"It can be 30,000, it can be 100,000," Graham said. "We just feel there's no way to know."

Will the city be giving out umbrellas on Monday?

"No. Nope, not going that far," Graham said with a laugh. "Not even going to think about that. And [the clouds and rain are] not going to happen. I'm hanging onto 'it's going to be clear skies.' You can call me back on April 9 and say 'Christie, you are right,' because it's going to be clear skies and we're going to have a great day."

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