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Scattered thunderstorms cover larger area than isolated storms

Is there a difference between scattered and isolated storms? It all just seems like rain to me.

— Annie S., Central Point

Not to rain on your parade, Annie, but there is a difference. First and foremost, it has nothing to do with the intensity of the storm.

When scattered thunderstorms are forecast, it means at any one time at least 30 to 50 percent of the area could be affected by thunderstorms. This is when it rains for five minutes, then the sun comes out, only to have another downpour 30 minutes later. There are often multiple rounds of storms that last throughout the entire day. This is the type of condition that probably helped popularize the advice to wait five minutes if you don't like the weather — a well-known phrase in Southern Oregon.

If the forecast calls for isolated storms, you can expect maybe only one round of storms, and coverage is limited to about 10 to 20 percent of the area. So while you were out and about without any rain, your friends could have experienced heavy rainfall.

While subtle, there is a difference between the two terms. However, the weather is notorious for its unpredictability, so be prepared.

—Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.