Leaving home with an umbrella or tall boots to weather a maelstrom probably won't protect you from its figurative power. If you get caught in a maelstrom, you're engulfed in a violent turn of events — a churning whirlpool that may suck you into its downward spiral.
Maelstrom once referred just to a well-known spot on the coast of Norway where tidal changes create strong and dangerous currents. Then, clever writers began using the term to portray the drama of something larger than life, as in this passage from Chapter 134 of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick:
That instant, the White Whale made a sudden rush among the remaining tangles of the other lines; by so doing, irresistibly dragged the more involved boats of Stubb and Flask towards his flukes; dashed them together like two rolling husks on a surf-beaten beach, and then, diving down into the sea, disappeared in a boiling maelstrom, in which, for a space, the odorous cedar chips of the wrecks danced round and round, like the grated nutmeg in a swiftly stirred bowl of punch.