At least 36 people died and dozens more are missing after a string of serious storms hit a half a dozen states from the Great Lakes to the Deep South. The greatest damage occurred in Tennessee, where 17 are already reported dead, and in Alabama were the toll now stands at 12. While the damage will cost millions, the forecast for citizens who were lucky enough to survive the storm fronts now calls for low levels of psychological trauma as they recover.
Man-made traumatic events such as terrorist bombings create greater levels of stress and posttraumatic stress than do incidents of nature. "Events like [the tornados] are "acts of God;" they don't get their claws in you," says Richard Driscoll, Ph.D., who has a private practice in Tennessee. "You don't get the sense that they are after you."
This is not to say that stress was absent during this latest storm system. Instead, notes Driscoll, it receded with the storm. He expects that few cases of posttraumatic or acute stress will develop as a direct result of this weekend's weather. Unlike the recent Washington, D.C., area sniper incidents, there is no specific direction for people to point their anger. "You can be angry at tornadoes, but somehow it's not as severe as anger toward terrorists," says Driscoll.