Tornado season: Managing anxiety, fear during severe storms

MEMA drone image of tornado damage from June 2023 in Jasper County, MS
MEMA drone image of tornado damage from June 2023 in Jasper County, MS

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – When tornado season hits in Mississippi, it doesn’t just bring in heavy winds and dark skies. It also blows in a wave of fear and anxiety.

“There’s a lot of respect for what Mother Nature can do in one regard, but there’s also a lot of fear about if this one going to be worse than the last one,” said Veronica Harrison, Administrator for Community Counseling.

This blend of respect and fear is common across the Magnolia State especially this time of year.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around the weather and what it could do because of what it’s already done,” said Harrison.

The scars left by previous storms are a visible reminder of their power, with tarps still covering homes and businesses, symbols of ongoing recovery.

“People are still trying to put themselves together, put their lives back together. It’s traumatic. It’s financially traumatic. Sometimes it’s physical trauma,” said Harrison.

Harrison said preparation is key for lessening anxiety about natural disasters.

“One of the ways you can get calm is to be prepared. Look at your insurance. Talk to your insurance agents. Make sure your stuff is in order. Make sure you have a place where you can put things to stay safe. Make sure you’re safe. Make sure you have a safe place. Have a plan. There’s some anxiety that we just can’t get rid of when it’s around storms but if you have a plan and you know what you’re supposed to do, it calms you down,” said Harrison.

As the night falls and the wind picks up, the community’s concern grows, prompting a flurry of preparation and questions about safety.

Cindy Lawrence is the emergency management agency director for Lowndes County.

“When the weather gets like, you know with the winds outside, and the overcast outside, people become concerned. When they start thinking about it, they’ll start calling 911 wanting to know what time the shelters are going to open, how to receive notifications, and what we need to be doing right now as we prepare for the severe weather that’s coming. And when it’s coming talking about late at night, it really gets people nervous and gets them tensed up wanting to know what to do,” said Lawrence.

In an era where traditional warning systems like sirens may not always be effective, technology offers a solution.

“During times like this, even though the sirens may go off because the winds are up so high, the sound may be carried by the winds so you’ll never hear the sirens. There are so many weather apps out there you can download for free, which provides you notifications. When severe weather is in our area, you can get those notifications on your cell phone. Also, you know WCBI has their First Alert where you can always turn the TV on and get that alert on what’s going on, what’s happening, the potential for whatever severe weather that’s coming to our area,” said Lawrence.

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