Two Ways to Deal With Extreme Weather-Related Stress
If you have snow on your driveway and sidewalk, you shovel it. If you have rain on your windshield, you clear it with wipers. If winds are exceptionally strong, you move outdoor items away from your home’s windows.
We do whatever is necessary to stay safe during inclement weather. But how do we protect ourselves on the insides? I’m talking about emotionally and mentally.
It’s obvious how extreme weather affects what we do and where we go. But studies show that violent weather can also produce stress that takes a different kind of toll.
That’s what I want to look at today. And if you’re thinking you are exempt from this, you may learn differently.
Potent Tornado Season Predicted
Several weeks ago, scientists and weather forecasters predicted a worse-than-average tornado season for the U.S. this spring.
Mainly because the current climate pattern in the tropical Pacific is La Niña. It’s favorable for tornado formations. Especially in the South and Southeast.
They said we could experience an unusually potent tornado season for the third consecutive spring.
Victor Gensini is a professor of atmospheric sciences at Northern Illinois University. He said, “La Niña tips the scales to greater (tornado) counts.”
John Allen is a professor at Central Michigan University. He said that with La Niña, “tornado season tends to be earlier and more active.”
Storms Hammer Deep South
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Gensini, Allen and others to be proven right. In late March, at least 20 tornadoes were reported in the Deep South over two days.
Dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed. Especially in Alabama and Mississippi. A number of people were injured. Amazingly, no one was killed.
But many people are dealing with a very stressful aftermath.
“You work 24 years and everything you have is gone in the blink of an eye,” said one Alabama resident.
Another who had hunkered down with relatives said this. “It’s gut-wrenching. Everything they had is just destroyed.”
This violent occurrence of tornadoes, and the fact that a rough tornado season is being predicted, brings back memories from 2011. That was also a La Niña year.
The “2011 Super Outbreak” of tornadoes was one of the largest meteorological disasters in U.S. history. And one of the most expensive.
Over a three-day span, there were more than 300 deaths, 2,800 injuries and $10 billion in damage due to tornadoes.
The record-breaking outbreak featured more than 700 reported tornadoes.
‘Strong Emotional Reactions’
Emotional trauma from violent spring weather can include reliving the event in flashbacks or dreams. As well as mood changes including grief or anxiety. And avoidance of people or places where the trauma occurred.
Other symptoms are hyper-arousal. Including a racing heartbeat, trouble catching your breath and being easily startled.
Cognitive function can also be affected Such as difficulty concentrating and excessive worry. As well as fatigue, appetite changes and crying unexpectedly.
David Knight is an associate psychology professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. “We see that strong emotional reactions occur after the threat of severe weather. Especially in people who have experienced weather-related trauma before.”
Best Ways to Prepare
He added, “Disaster is not permanent. But emotions can linger for days, months or years. Especially if there is a rebuilding phase that people experience.
“Being prepared for severe weather season – both physically and emotionally – can help people cope with overwhelming feelings they are likely to re-experience when the next threat of severe weather occurs.”
One of the great things about being prepared for extreme weather is that it can reduce stress levels. It can give you peace of mind that no matter what happens, you’re ready for it.
4 Tornado Safety Steps
There are four steps you can take during a tornado to keep you and your family feeling safer and more secure:
- If you’re indoors, get to a basement, storm cellar or the lowest level of a building. Stay away from windows, doors, corners of buildings and outside walls.
- If you’re indoors but can’t get to a lower level, find the smallest interior room or hallway. It should be as far from the exterior of the building as possible.
- If you’re driving, try to head to the closest structure where you can take shelter.
- If you’re driving but can’t get to a shelter, don’t try to outrun it. Pull over, get out of the car and lie face down with your hands over your head in a ditch. Or another lower level near the roadway but away from vehicles.
Most people who suffer post-tornado injuries get hurt while cleaning up debris. Including glass and nails. Also keep an eye out for downed power lines, ruptured gas lines and damaged structures.
It’s important to prepare yourself before violent weather heads your way. Know what to do if violent weather approaches and have supplies ready you will need.