If you are afraid of severe weather or even thunderstorms in general, you have Astraphobia. Even your pets may suffer from this. However, if it’s tornadoes that cause you to get anxious and panic, then you may have Lilapsophobia.

Many things can cause Lilapsophobia.
1. Suffering severe trauma in a tornado
2. Seeing the devastation on TV
3. Losing a loved one due to a tornado
4. Having a deep rooted fear of severe weather in general

Some of the things you may do is spend a lot of time watching the weather, checking the weather online, watching for severe weather alerts constantly, or taking cover. In the extreme cases, you may seek shelter as soon as the rain starts falling and watch the radar and alerts using a mobile device while hiding.

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Now granted, according to that definition, most of us would qualify here in Oklahoma. After all, there is nothing wrong with staying weather aware and using technology to keep you and your loved ones safe. So that part is the healthy part of the condition. It only becomes a problem if you experience any or many of the following in relation to this:

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Feeling of unreality or being detached
  • Fear of losing control or going crazy
  • Anticipatory anxiety
  • Terror
  • Desire to flee or hideDizziness, shaking, palpitations, lightheaded, or faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shaking
  • Feeling of choking
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Numbness or tingling sensations

So what can you do to help ease your fear of this phenomenon?

First, let’s take a look at some brief statistics regarding tornadoes.

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Tornadoe count by county

Tornado count by county

Since 1950 there have been approximately 3500 tornadoes across Oklahoma. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but how many have died due to these? 300. Yes, to have that many tornadoes and those few deaths in relation to them, is astounding. A lot of that has to do with well built structures, seeking shelter when you should, and finally and the most important statistic, is that 70% of all tornadoes are weak, EF0-EF1. Those are easily survivable with adequate shelter.

Enhanced Fujita Scale

Enhanced Fujita Scale

As for the rest of the tornadoes, about 22% are EF2 and only 8% are in the EF3-EF5, with the EF3 making up the majority of that. Although these violent EF4/EF5 tornadoes make up only 2% of all tornadoes, they do cause the most death and destruction. So with these numbers, that works out to about 1 violent tornado a year on average. Remember, the other tornadoes are easily survivable with adequate shelter, and even in these extreme cases, people survive all the time, even when their home has been completely destroyed. So just know you have two things working in your favor. One, most are weak and two, they are very small compared to the geographical size of Oklahoma. It’s like the proverbial “finding a needle in a haystack”.

What also will help is the more prepared you are for tornadoes, the better off you will be. Always have a plan of action and practice that plan with your family. Know where you are going to go and what you need to take with you. A “bug out” bag filled with tennis shoes, medication, important documents, lithium ion battery recharger pack, flashlight, water, snacks, are all great ideas. Keep in mind you will only need to pack things you can’t live without for the next 12-24 hours. After that, you are going to have so many emergency responders, neighbors, church members, etc show up and provide you with more than you’ll need. Disasters like this really show the best side of mankind with extreme generosity. Also, The Red Cross and The United Way will step up to help those recover long-term as well.

Various types of storm shelters.

Various types of storm shelters.

So where do you go to seek shelter? Obviously any type of tornado shelter built according to FEMA guidelines will work just fine as long as you are physically able to get in and out of it. If that’s not an option, you want to be on the first floor in the center most part of the structure, whether that be a house, an apartment, a retirement community, etc. It will also help to find a small closet or bathroom. The idea is to place as many walls between you and the outside as you can. Do not leave your home to drive across town at the last minute. You could get stuck in traffic or worse and the tornado could run over you. If you have kids that play sports, have them put on their helmets and gear for additional protection. You can even grab a mattress off the bed. Anything you can add will help.

Center closet left standing.

Center closet left standing.

Weather education is another way to help ease your fear. There are plenty of on-line resources that discuss tornadoes and other weather hazards such as Weather Ready Nation, of which AT’s Weather is a proud Ambassador. Learn how to read/interpret a radar to look for hook echoes. Now a lot of storms will rotate in Oklahoma in the Spring, but that doesn’t mean they’ll all produce a tornado. Most don’t. However, knowing where the hook is gives you knowledge of the part of the storm to watch out for and if it’s tracking in your direction or not. Use the velocity radar product to look at the wind in the storm. If you see a red/green tight small area around that hook echo region, that’s going to be your tornado.

Radar tornado signature. Hook echo on right, velocity couplet on left.

Radar tornado signature. Hook echo on right, velocity couplet on left.

Finally, stay weather aware by having multiple resources; NOAA Wx Radio, smart phone apps like mine, ATsWeatherToGo, watch my on-line severe weather coverage, and pay attention if the tornado sirens are activated.

Now if you suffer from an extreme case of Lilapsophobia, similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) see a professional counselor or join a support group where others share their story. Recovering is not an easy process and it’s certainly not a quick one.

Being prepared, checking the weather, and utilizing the latest technology all goes a long way in protecting you and your family while easing your fear. -AT

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