It is a bright, sunny day over St. Louis, Missouri. Enormous cotton-candy clouds hang lazily in the brilliant blue sky. It's humid--and hot (about 90 degrees Farenheit), but there is a slight breeze that pushes the wind chimes. Good day for swimming. Or, if you're Ashley, it's a good day to stay
inside and wait for the storm to pass.
There's no storm... yet. But there will be one, oh yes. And the hail and thunder and lightning
might lead to funnel clouds which might turn into tornadoes which might, for once, touch down
close to home. In that case she'll have to go to the basement and
pray for her safety and wait even more. And so it is that Ashley stays home, afraid to go out if the
weather forecast shows one drop of water in the near future. She does, after all, live in Tornado
The waiting used to be mildly amusing, if not eccentric. She'd go out, but look up at the sky
nervously, as if she knew something we didn't. But today the call was tear-filled. "Please come
over. There's a storm coming and I don't want to be alone." I come over because I
don't know what else to do, but I note to myself that this has gotten out of hand. The Weather
Channel isn't even predicting this one, yet. It can't rain all the time.
We sit down at the family computer and I quickly type in a few words, and point to the hits
that come back. "Look, Ash. This is you," I say as I point to stormphobia and severe weather
phobia. "See?" She starts to cry again, because she knows it's true and is almost as afraid of
phobia as she is of tornadoes. But she doesn't know what to do about it. And neither do I.
Lilapsophobia is more than just a fear of tornadoes and hurricanes. It's staying up all night,
terrified that the hail at the window is a precursor for the finger of God.
Shaking, crying, breaking into a cold sweat when the wind howls. Hitting local news forecasts
and weather.com the way a junkie hits her veins. Memorizing weather lore to recite like poetry
or prayer or both. It's waiting for the storm outside that couldn't possibly match the
severe weather in your mind.
Twenty minutes later: I've just come in from rolling up my car windows. It seems it's raining outside.