What is the difference between a garden variety thunderstorm and a severe thunderstorm?

We asked Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, that question in the wake of the North Cariboo being under a severe thunderstorm watch…

“When the atmospheric ingredients are truly present and we’re expecting conditions to become severe, and that means really heavy downpours, possibility of hail, so for today we can expect hail to be up to an inch in size and then some really strong wind gusts, that’s when we’ll issue severe thunderstorm watches.”

MacDonald says another watch can be expected in the North Cariboo tomorrow…

“We issue severe thunderstorm watches when there is a potential and then we’ll upgrade that watch to a warning when we see these severe thunderstorms materialize, so it’s kind of a heads up for people to keep a close eye on the weather and the forecast throughout the day. We’re going to keep this watch in effect into early this evening unless we have to issue a warning, and then likely take it down later this evening when the sun goes down. We’ll probably see another watch into tomorrow because this unstable atmosphere is with us for a couple of days.”

MacDonald says while there likely won’t be a thunderstorm watch on Wednesday, we can expect between 15 and 20 millimeters of rain, and he says our best weather this week will likely come on Friday and Saturday.