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Advice from Meteorologists on Dealing with Storm Anxiety

In our area, we will see storms every year, and unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. This can make you feel powerless. But there is a way to empower yourself and that’s through knowledge and preparation. It can be helpful to think about what exactly it is about severe weather or storms that makes you afraid, stressed or nervous, Knowing what it is that makes you stressed or anxious can help you find ways to deal with that stress and anxiety.

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Here are some things you can do to empower yourself and take more control over your weather fears:

  • Advance preparation – thinking about where you will take shelter, making sure you have several ways to get weather warnings and information, and having a plan for you and your family – can help reduce your fear and stress levels when storms are in the area. Planning and preparation puts you in control of your situation and can make the storms a little less scary.

  • Think about what stresses you out the most about severe weather. For some people, it’s the sound of thunder, the flashes of lightning or the roar of the winds. For others, it’s the anticipation and uncertainty about what might happen to them or their family. If there is something that makes your fears worse that you can control, this might help you.

  • Learn about the storms. Understand how they are forecast and what the various watch, warning and advisory terms mean. Follow the National Weather Service severe weather outlooks and forecasts online and learn about the science that goes into those severe weather predictions. Attend a free NWS storm spotter training class to learn more about tornadoes and severe storms.

  • Many people who are afraid of storms want all the information they can get their hands on when severe weather is in the forecast. With social media, there are many sources of weather information to choose from. Some are considered official sources, like the NWS, your favorite TV station or local TV meteorologist, or your local emergency management or public safety agencies in your community, and these are generally good places to get weather information. A small percentage of social media forecasts tend toward the extreme or worst case scenario when forecasting severe weather. If you have storm anxiety, these might make things worse.
  • Visit your local National Weather Service office. Meet the forecasters who are working around the clock to watch for dangerous weather and who have your back during severe weather.

  • Make a tornado safety plan with your family. On a sunny day with no storms in the forecast, figure out where you will take shelter if a tornado is coming your way. Practice getting you, your family and your pets to that safe place. Put together a safety kit that has the supplies you would need if you had to take shelter.

  • Plan how you and your family will stay in contact in case you lose electricity, phone service, cable or satellite service, cell service or internet service. Develop a communication plan in case you are separated.

  • Make sure you have at least three different ways to get a warning. This can include local television, NOAA Weather Radio, phone apps, outdoor warning sirens, community notification systems, etc

  • Learn about your local warning systems in your community - sirens, mass notification systems, etc - and how they work.

  • Find a way to see radar data and learn to track the storms yourself. There are lots of apps that provide detailed radar data, and some of them will even plot your current location so you will always know where you are in relation to the storms. You can also access free radar data on the National Weather Service website and on your favorite local TV station’s website.

  • Learn your local geography - nearby cities and towns, counties, interstates and highways - to make it easier to track the storms as they move through the area. Understanding where the storms are and where they’re going can make severe weather much less stressful.