Lightning Strike Victim Shares Story to Help Others Stay Safe

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

                     “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” is a

                      catchy slogan used by the Illinois Emergency

                      Management Agency (IEMA) and the National Weather

                      Service (NWS) to remind people to take cover when a

                      thunderstorm approaches.  But for one

                      lightning-strike survivor, the phrase is important

                      advice that everyone should heed.

                      During Lightning Safety Awareness Week June 19-25,

                      Jim Ciulla of Lexington is working with IEMA and the

                      NWS to spread the word about the 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 taken

                      by ambulance to a hospital in Peoria then airlifted

                      to the burn center in Springfield, where he was

                      treated for first- and second-degree burns.

                      Ciulla says he is lucky to have survived the

                      lightning strike, but the event has left lasting

                      physical problems and severe pain that make it

                      impossible for him to return to work or enjoy many of

                      the activities he did prior to his injury. While he

                      has made some progress nearly a year after the

                      lightning strike, his feet are completely numb, it’s

                      difficult for him to do any physical activity for an

                      extended period of time and scars from his burns are

                      a constant reminder of that life-altering day in July

                      2010.

                      “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.

                      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.”

                      As the “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” slogan

                      suggests, people should move to shelter as soon as

                      thunder is heard, even if the thunderstorm isn’t

                      directly overhead.  Lightning can strike from as far

                      away as 10 miles.  The best shelter from lightning is

                      inside a substantial building with the windows and

                      doors closed.  If no substantial shelter is

                      available, seek refuge in a hard topped vehicle with

                      the windows closed.  Once inside, stay there for 30

                      minutes after the last rumble of thunder before

                      resuming outdoor activities.

                      “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.  “Being aware

                      of the forecast, whether by listening to NOAA Weather

                      Radio All Hazards or another media outlet, is the

                      first step in keeping yourself and your family safe

                      from the dangers of lightning.  However, just being

                      aware of the forecast is not where personal

                      responsibility ends…if thunderstorms are threatening,

                      act on it.  Don’t wait for the rain."

                      People who work outdoors in open spaces, on or near

                      tall objects, with explosives or with metal have a

                      high risk of being struck by lightning.  Farmers,

                      utility workers, construction workers, heavy

                      equipment operators and plumbers are among the

                      occupations with the most risk for being struck by

                      lightning.  Safety tips for these workers include:

                      • Pay attention to the daily forecast and stay alert

                      for early signs of thunderstorms.

                      • When the forecast calls for severe weather, don’t

                      start anything that can’t be stopped quickly.

                      • Know your employer’s safety guidelines, which

                      should include a lightning warning policy that

                      ensures warnings can be issued to workers in time for

                      everyone to get to a safe location and that workers

                      have access to a safe location.

                      • If severe weather is approaching, avoid anything

                      tall or high, such as roofs, ladders, utility poles

                      or trees; large equipment, such as bulldozers,

                      cranes, backhoes and tractors, materials or surfaces

                      that conduct electricity, like metal tools or

                      equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes and

                      plumbing; and leave areas where explosives or

                      munitions are located.

                      IEMA and the NWS developed a Lightning Safety

                      Awareness Guide that contains additional information

                      about how to stay safe during thunderstorms.  The

                      guide, as well as information about disaster

                      preparedness, is available on the Ready Illinois

                      website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.