Q: What happens if it’s cloudy during the eclipse?

A: Solar eclipse path of totality maps: check. Viewing location: settled upon and secured. Eclipse safety glasses: got ’em. Disaster plans: wait, disaster plans? Forecast: CLOUDY?!

The Texanist has seen a lot in his many years on this earth—like the time he saw honky-tonker Dale Watson introduce the great Johnny “Whiskey River” Bush from the stage at Poodie’s Roadhouse, west of Austin, while at the very same time playing the “Westphalia Waltz” as a sort of soundtrack to a barroom brawl that had broken out between a father and son, for example—but he’s never witnessed a total solar eclipse. The last such celestial event to grace the skies over much of Texas occurred way back in 1878, and the next one isn’t scheduled to arrive over the contiguous United States until 2044, by which time the Texanist may well be pushing up bluebonnets. Needless to say, he, like millions of other curious earthlings, is looking forward to the out-of-this-world doings of April 8.

With the momentous date fast approaching, the number of eclipse-related stories seems to be increasing at an—pardon the Texanist—astronomical rate. Along with practical tips and advice for where to watch, many recent articles, including two from Texas Monthly, have focused on the massive logistical undertaking that eclipse planning has demanded of small Texas towns. Heeding warnings of the hordes of eclipse viewers that are expected to descend upon the state, bringing with them possibly horrendous traffic jams, overcrowded regional airports (some of which don’t even require advanced arrival notice), too few hotel rooms, underabundant toilet facilities, not enough water, not enough food, not enough gasoline, and too much litter, at least eight counties have declared a state of emergency. They’ve urged residents to prepare as they would for a natural disaster, by stocking up on food, fuel, and other supplies, and planning ahead to avoid getting stuck in those traffic jams. Texas is likely to be a particularly popular destination for eclipse chasers in part because out of all the states that fall within the path of totality—that’s the 115-mile-wide strip stretching across Texas from Eagle Pass to Texarkana where the sun will be completely blocked by the moon—ours has historically been the sunniest.

Few of these stories, however, have considered the potential for the sort of eclipse-viewing calamity that could be brought on by bad weather on April 8. It goes against the Texanist’s nature to be a Darrell Downer, but, really, what happens if it is cloudy at eclipse time? Yes, spring often brings pleasant temperatures, ample sunshine, and seas of pretty wildflowers to Texas, but our weather—as anyone the least bit familiar with the state can attest—is also known for its volatility. One minute it’s pleasant and beautiful, and the next it’s downright deadly.

Curious about what sort of effect cloudiness might have on eclipse viewing, the Texanist reached out to Dev Niyogi, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. Niyogi, who collected temperature-change data during last year’s annular eclipse to study how eclipses affect our immediate surroundings, recounted having to consider the weather in choosing a location during that event. As for the eclipse experience under a cloudy sky, Niyogi says that unless there are completely overcast conditions, it will likely still be possible to find a good spot—depending on the crowdedness of the roads—from which to view the eclipse.

“If it’s fully cloudy, one may still experience the darkness and the changes through the ring and the complete covering of the sun. But it may not be as clearly visible,” Niyogi said. “With some light cloud cover one can still experience the whole eclipse. Just depends on how dense the cloud cover is.”

The Texanist has actually read a few stories that tell of a sort of enhanced—albeit different—eclipse experience that might come with overcast skies. Even if it’s cloudy, there will still be plenty of very unusual effects to take in. The skies will still darken, the mercury will still drop a noticeable amount, and you may get to witness the moon’s umbral shadow “projected” onto the clouds above. As Houston meteorologist Eric Berger wrote on Monday, “The eclipse will still be quite a treat even with poor weather.” And you may see the general light around you, as well as any cloud cover, turn from dreary gray to an array of exotic colors. Bottom line: all will not be lost in an un-sunny sky.

For more insight into the forecast, the Texanist pinged John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, who has served as the state climatologist and de facto state meteorologist for more than two decades. The long and short of it, according to Nielsen-Gammon, is that “clouds are more likely than normal, with three cloud possibilities in play: high (and hopefully thin) clouds, with iffy viewing conditions; thick low and middle clouds, with rainy weather and poor viewing conditions; or lots of low clouds, with some gaps.” But, because this is Texas, the learned weatherman also says that mostly clear skies are still a possibility. We’ll know more as we get closer to the eighth.

Until then, the Texanist will advise holding onto the old meteorological maxim that goes, “If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait five minutes.” Here’s hoping such a wait won’t coincide with this rarest of sky-gazing opportunities. But remember, even if the sun’s not all the way out, there will still be much more to see than a bunch of sad faces in funny sunglasses.

More From John Nielsen-Gammon’s Forecast

 A variety of possibilities continue to exist for eclipse weather on April 8 for Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  Right now, it all seems to hinge on a low pressure system developing over the weekend in Colorado.  If it’s strong enough and stays far enough south, it could clear things out on Monday and leave us with clear skies along the entire eclipse track.  If it’s weak or stays north, we’ll be under the influence of a strong upper level trough over California, with lots of low and high clouds moving into the area.  Too early to call, but I know what I’m rooting for!

So far, it’s pretty clear that we’ll have a warm and generally wet weather pattern during the second week of April. We can rule some things out, such as an Arctic cold front. Our air is going to be coming from either the south or west.

“Generally wet” is not good news for eclipse viewing. The jet stream pattern is going to be carrying disturbances across the southwest United States and into Texas. At low levels, it will be easy to tap into Gulf moisture; at higher levels in the atmosphere, this is a common pattern for high clouds from the tropical Pacific. So clouds are more likely than normal, with three cloud possibilities in play: high (and hopefully thin) clouds, such as we have today, with iffy viewing conditions; thick low and middle clouds, with rainy weather and poor viewing conditions; or lots of low clouds, with some gaps.

Mostly clear skies are also still a possibility. A lot will depend on the specific jet stream pattern and the timing of weather disturbances. If an upper-level trough comes through on Sunday, we could still have nice, sunny weather on Monday. Timing of storm systems generally doesn’t get settled until three to five days out; until then it will be a matter of narrowing down the possibilities.