When a local meteorologist mentions isolated thunderstorms on your local news, you might wonder what exactly does that mean? Does that mean you need to cancel your outdoor plans? The answer is not necessarily. Whether a storm is labeled scattered or isolated has nothing to do with its strength, but rather the coverage of its thunderstorm activity over the forecast area.
In the early stages of a thunderstorm, air moves upward in a series of rising eddies called an updraft. As these eddies rise, they collect water and ice particles, and this creates precipitation and clouds. When the accumulated load of moisture becomes excessive, the air cools and sinks, and this produces a downdraft. The downdraft then interacts with the updraft, and the downdraft and updraft become closely associated with each other.
Scattered thunderstorms, on the other hand, are more disorganized than isolated thunderstorms. These thunderstorms cover a larger area, and the chances of experiencing a storm are higher when an area is forecast to have scattered thunderstorms than when an area is expected to experience isolated thunderstorms.
Whether a thunderstorm is isolated or scattered, it can still be quite dangerous. During a thunderstorm, it is best to stay indoors and away from windows if possible. If you can’t stay inside, then make sure you remove objects like tree branches from your yard that could fall during a storm and unplug electrical devices. Also, make sure you follow the weather safety slogan: when thunder roars, go indoors!