Friday, September 22, 2000

Psychologist: Fear of storms can be dealt with

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To help overcome their fear of storms, children should first know that parents are prepared for bad weather, a Cincinnati psychologist said Thursday.

        “Some people can be exceedingly frightened of storms,” said Dr. David Zucker of the Behavioral Science Center in Walnut Hills. “You don't want to ignore it.”

        He advises parents to let their children know that the family has a weather radio and a tornado or storm plan.

        “Kids will see that you are doing something,” he said.

        For children in Xenia, where tornadoes have severely ripped the community twice in 26 years, the fear of bad weather is real because its damage is so ingrained in the community's mind.

        “It happened twice in 25 years, and that's a lot,” Dr. Zucker said. “Children should know, however, that it's not likely to happen again. They should understand that it's not an everyday occurrence.”

        He recommends deep-breathing exercises and meditation for people — adults included — who are extremely fearful of storms.

        Laurie Arshonsky knows what he means.

        Having gone through the April 9, 1999, tornado in Montgomery, Mrs. Arshonsky was apprehensive Wednesday night when she heard reports of bad weather.

        “I was at a meeting, and I asked a woman, "Is there a basement in this building?'” she said. “The woman said no. I thought, "Oh, no, what are we going to do?' But she assured me we could take cover in a room with no windows. I felt better.”

        After the 1999 disaster, she and her husband decided to move from Montgomery. They now live in Symmes Township in Hamilton County.

        “A couple of weeks ago, I saw lightning and it was like April all over again for me,” she said. “I'm having therapy to relax the trauma. My husband's doing fine. He's not as anxious as I am. The kids are OK, too. One daughter's more anxious, but she's moved on with it.”

        That doesn't surprise Dr. Zucker, who says children are resilient and “pretty good at recognizing the facts.”

        When a devastating tornado strikes, as it did in Xenia, people react differently, Dr. Zucker said.

        Some people move away from the community. Others help their neighbors and develop a sense of brotherhood, he said.

        “We want to be careful that we don't prescribe how people should feel,” he said. “There is no one way for people to react.”

Complete coverage of the Xenia tornado:
Gallery of photographs from the scene
The path of the twister: Infographic
Few warned of twister
7-year-old helped others dig out of smashed church
- Psychologist: Fear of storms can be dealt with
Spared in 1974, but not in 2000
The Enquirer's special 25th anniversary coverage of the Tornado of 1974

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