(Springfield, IL) – June 18, 2011. “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” is the slogan used by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service to remind people during “Lightning Safety Awareness Week” to take cover when a thunderstorm rolls in—a slogan that one Illinois lightning-strike survivor is urging everyone to heed.
Jim Ciulla of Lexington is working with both agencies on the awareness campaign during June 19-25 to warn Illinois residents about the painful, life-changing effects of being struck by lightning.
On July 6, 2010, Ciulla was working as a flagger for a road construction crew on Route 89 in Woodford County when he was struck by lightning. He was rushed by ambulance to a hospital in Peoria. He then needed to be airlifted to the burn center in Springfield to be treated for first- and second-degree burns.
Ciulla says he is lucky that he survived, but the lightning-strike has left lasting physical problems and pain. He is unable to return to work. He is unable to do routine activities. While he has made some progress nearly a year, his feet remain completely numb. He struggles to do any prolonged physical activity. And his scars from burns are a constant reminder of that July 6th day.
“Being struck by lightning has completely changed my life,” said Ciulla. “I hope by telling my story, others will get to safety when thunderstorms are near. No sporting event, no outdoor job, nothing is worth the risk of getting struck by lightning.”
According to the National Weather Service, each year about 55 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured by lightning strikes in the U.S. On average, two-thirds of those fatalities and injuries occur outdoors at recreation events and near trees. Additionally, lightning can strike from as far away as 10 miles.
With prompt medical treatment, most lightning strike victims can survive. However, the long-term effects can include memory loss, personality changes, difficulty performing more than one task at a time, fatigue, irreparable nerve damage, chronic pain and headaches, difficulty sleeping and dizziness.
“In a split-second, your life could be changed forever by lightning,” said IEMA Director Jonathon Monken. “Whether at work or play, you should always be aware of changing weather conditions and be prepared to take cover as soon as you hear the first rumble of thunder.”
The best shelter from lightning is inside a substantial building with the windows and doors closed or in a hard topped vehicle with the windows closed.
“If you are close enough to the storm to hear the thunder, you are close enough to be struck by the next bolt of lightning,” said Heather Stanley, meteorologist with the NWS in Lincoln. “…[I]f thunderstorms are threatening, act on it. Don’t wait for the rain.”