Weather

North Carolina's storm-weary cast eyes skyward

When a thunderstorm passed through Raleigh this week, Peggy Mosley retreated to a corner of her home and sat, hoping that two towering trees would stay standing as rain soaked the ground.

"I got into the farthest end of my house," she said. "Just like I did when the tornado hit, just waiting."

The trees did not crash down. And Mosley, 54, went unscathed by the rain and winds.

But more than a week after the deadly April 16 tornadoes, Mosley and many others in storm-ravaged areas are still feeling a bit jittery. And that stress has been heightened by this week's stormy forecasts.

Tornadoes pass quickly, but fear does not.

Disaster-related emotional problems include depression, grief, anger, guilt, apathy, fear and bizarre behavior, mental health experts say. They can strike those with ruined houses, as well as those who escaped relatively unscathed. Reactions can range from healthy to self-destructive.

Increased anxiety is a normal response to natural disasters, said Joanna Forester, a Federal Emergency Management Agency mental health liaison and a disaster preparedness and response coordinator with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Though some people may experience acute stress disorder, Forester said, for many, the anxiety caused by the traumatic experience usually subsides within a month.

"We try not to medicalize it, because 90 percent of people will be OK down the road," she said.

THUNDER BRINGS GASPS

Last Thursday in Raleigh, patients in a doctor's waiting room gasped at the sound of thunder and the flicker of lights overhead.

In Holly Springs, storms still bring a tingling anxiety to members of the Campbell family, who saw trees and utility poles snap just outside their house.

"We've been through so much - we're afraid that it could come again," said Jennifer Campbell, 20, who returned home this week after crews repaired her roof.

The National Weather Service in Raleigh says storm-weary residents should be prepared for the possibility of severe weather today. But meteorologist Ryan Ellis doesn't think the Triangle will see a repeat of the tornadoes, which killed 24 across the state and caused property damage in the millions.

"But certainly pay attention to any warnings issued and take it seriously," Ellis said. "People are probably a little skittish."

DAMAGED HOMES AT RISK

The chance of severe weather is estimated at 15 percent to 30 percent, with a greater chance east of the Triangle, he said.

Residents whose property was damaged by the April 16 tornadoes should pay particular attention to weather reports, Ellis said. "Try and secure any debris that may still be around, so those items don't become projectiles," Ellis said.

And if warnings are issued, residents in storm-damaged homes should consider taking shelter elsewhere if time allows. "Certainly, being in a shelter that's just tarped over isn't going to be as good as a building with a regular roof," he said.

WORRIED ABOUT TREES

If the forecast is accurate, Peggy Mosley will probably be worrying about the trees again.

She lives in Stony Brook North Mobile Home Park, which is where a tree crushed a nearby trailer, killing four young children.

Mosley thinks that she will feel safe at home again if workers remove the threatening trees. But the threat of storms has a new resonance for her .

"God knows, if you've ever been in a tornado and they're talking about tornadoes headed your way again, severe weather - I will forever be afraid," Mosley said.

Staff writers Amy Dunn, Mary Cornatzer, John Frank, Thomas Goldsmith, Jack Hagel and Paul A. Specht contributed to this report.

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