Rick Smith, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Norman, Oklahoma National Weather Service office is doing great things to help those that are struggling with Severe Weather Anxiety.
In the clinical world, sometimes this is called Lilapsophobia. That is an abnormal fear of tornadoes or hurricanes.
“There are different levels of severe storm anxiety,” Smith said. “You an have a fear of severe weather, you can have anxiety which makes you really uneasy when there may be storms. Or you can have a full-blown phobia.”
Smith explained the continuum to a group of meteorologists at the National Weather Association Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California on Sunday.
Fear is a good thing, it helps people react. But anxiety and phobias are not healthy.
“How many meteorologists in here were once afraid of severe weather?” Smith asked the audience during his presentation.
Numerous people raised their hands. It turns out this fear was often a motivating factor for a career choice later in life.
It’s actually good to be a little scared of storms,” Jill Coleman, geographer with Ball State University told the USA Today in 2014. “It’s definitely normal, and we want people to have some sort of fear of storms to an extent, because you’re more apt to be proactive about it … but not to the point where people are so fearful they do nothing.”
Many broadcast meteorologists and National Wether Service employees in attendance agreed that there was a growing population of the public with a heightened awareness and fear of severe weather.
“It’s really widespread we think,” Smith said. “Lots of people have some anxiety about severe weather.”
Smith says that 75 to 80 percent of the people who suffer from Severe Weather Anxiety have lived through an event that has caused them to fear storms after that. Think of it like Severe Weather PTSD.
Karrie Leggitt Brown, the person for which the “Karrie Meter” of how stressed out should the weather make you, is named, says that her anxiety has grown over the past 10 to 15 years.
There are a handful of websites out there, offering guidance on managing the anxiety. Severestormphobias.wordpress.com is one.
Smith mentioned during his presentation that there are 800 numbers and national professional organizations designed to help people who are struggling with Severe Weather Anxiety.
“We think that education helps,” Smith said. “A lot of times what people are afraid of is the mystery or the uncertainty associated with severe weather.”