Sarah Stultz: Suffering from trauma of severe weather?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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This time of year when the severe weather threats increase in our area, it gets me a little on edge as I cover the weather — what’s expected to happen, what actually does take place, and, of course, the aftermath. 

As I type this, our area is under a tornado watch for the rest of the evening. 

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It seems like it was just last week when we had our last round of tornadoes in December that came through the area, and already there’s the possibility of more. 

These powerful storms leave devastating impacts on people, and I just cannot get that devastation out of my mind. 

I have not experienced any of it firsthand with my own house or my own property, but I can’t wipe off the images in my mind from the destruction I have seen. 

These tornadoes have the strength to leave houses pulled off their foundations, to rip trees apart, to throw pieces of buildings and belongings yards — if not miles — down the street, and of course can have major impacts on lives, even leading to the loss of life.

Every once in a while I drive through what I often refer to as “tornado alley” near Armstrong, Manchester and areas near Alden, and I can still see evidence of the tornadoes in 2010. I drove past one property that still had their damaged house on their property but had also built a new house nearby. I could not live with that constant reminder. 

I’m sure many who experienced those tornadoes, the tornadoes in December and even the one in Clarks Grove a few years back may have similar feelings every once in a while as this kind of thing happens again and you hear the words “tornado watch” or hear the warning sirens. 

I remember interviewing Rose Olmsted, former Freeborn County Crisis Response Team coordinator, in 2011 about the trauma that people were experiencing a year after the large tornadoes, and I will always remember what she recommended that someone do if they are suffering from trauma or difficult emotions tied to these types of events. 

She said people have to take back the control they felt they lost from those events, whether that’s through being prepared for any future disasters, talking with your family about where you will meet in case you are separated during the disaster or something as simple as buying a radio that you can listen to for updates in case of power outages. 

There’s a way to feel more grounded.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears on Wednesdays.