fear of weather

You Say You’re Afraid Of What?


Whether it is spiders, heights, insects, escalators, creepy clowns, dogs, cats, flying, drowning, or any other person, place or thing that makes us afraid for no apparent reason they call it a phobia. Dictionary.com defines phobia as: “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.”

I recently came across an article that discusses a phobia that I have witnessed first-hand. It’s not a phobia I have, I’ll get into those later, but one that I have seen dealing with viewers and listeners of my weather forecasts over the years. The article is from ThoughtCo.com and was written by Tifffany Means and updated March 18, 2017. The title of the article is thought provoking, at least for me – “How To Tell If You Have A Weather Phobia.” She explains “Weather phobias are included in the ‘natural environment’ family of phobias – fears triggered by objects or situations found in nature.”

Super Cell Thunderstorm
Super Cell Thunderstorm 6.8.18 | Photo Courtesy of Daniel Liebert UC Boulder

The American Psychological Association (APA) lists the names for some of the natural environment phobias which include Astrophobia (fear of thunderstorms), Nephophobia (fear of clouds), Lapsophobia (fear of hurricanes), Chinophobia (fear of snow), Cryophobia (fear of cold), Ancraophobia (fear of wind), and Ombrophobia (fear of rain). There apparently are others that were not on the list I found in an article titled “Weathering the Storm,” Re-visiting Severe-Weather Phobia, that was published in the August 2014 edition of the Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society. It was written by Jill S. M Coleman, Department of Geography at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana;  Kaylee D. Newby, Karen D. Multon, and Cynthia L. Taylor, all three from the Department of Psychology and Research in Education, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.

Rain, Moderate To Heavy
Rain, Moderate To Heavy In Eugene South Hills | Photo by Tim Chuey

Quoting “Natural environment phobias have the second highest prevalence rate (between approximately 9% and 12%) among phobia subtypes, with storm phobia alone occurring in 2%-3% of the general population.” When I worked back East or in the South, where thunderstorms were more prevalent, I would have viewers call me wanting to know exactly when and where the thunderstorms would strike because they were literally terrified of thunderstorms. When we would be under a severe thunderstorm watch or warnings I had to answer multiple phone calls from them worried whether the storm would be over their home. Some would actually get in their car before the storm arrived and drive to another area away from the storms.

Agness Flooding
Hurricane Agnes Flood of 1972 | Chemung County Historical Society Collection

The closest I come to having a weather phobia has to do with rain. I have explained in past articles that my wife and I along with our 3-month-old daughter survived the 5oo year flood in Elmira, New York back in 1972. It rained for a full week before the Tropical Depression that was Hurricane Agnes plowed through creating massive flooding. For many many years after that event my wife and I both suffered from stomach cramps, headaches, and anxiety whenever we had significant rain for more than just a few days. I still get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach when area rainfall starts causing flooding. It’s not a phobia by some definitions because there is a serious reason behind the fear of floods.

The American Psychological Association has a website that gives information on phobias at https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug05/figuring.

The article lists some situations feelings you might have in response to them. “You Might Have a Weather Phobia if [you feel]

  • Anxiety and panic (heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and nausea)
  • A desire to be around others when unfavorable weather is forecast or occurring
  • An inability to to eat or sleep during severe weather
  • Helplessness when certain weather is occurring
  • You change your schedule so that you can plan around ill weather
  • You obsessively monitor the TV, weather forecasts, or your weather radio”

Helpful hints are given to cope with your weather fears. “Learn how the weather works… practice weather safety… relax.” Those tips sound simple, but to someone with a weather phobia they could be life-changing. Understanding your fears is a good starting point. There are many things that you can do to help ease anxiety such as relaxation techniques, Yoga, hobbies, etc. Remember, you can’t control the weather but you can control how you react to it.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].