WOODVILLE, Maine — Floyd Bradley was standing near his kitchen window, having a snack, when it struck him. A bolt of lightning shot through the open window of his Woodville home and entered his arm. The impact caused him to stumble to the nearby bedroom, where he collapsed on the bed.
Bradley, 35, survived the incident and is back home, but with doctor’s orders to rest up. He remembers the scary event in detail.
At about 8 p.m., Bradley walked into the kitchen to get something to eat. His live-in girlfriend, Christie Goulas, as well as his two sons — Jameson, 8, and Joshua, 6 — were standing at a window, watching the lightning illuminate the birch trees surrounding their one-story, green home at 28 Energy Lane. The trio invited Bradley to join them at the window, but he declined, not being a big fan of lightning storms.
As he opened the refrigerator’s meat drawer to grab some cold-cut turkey, the lightning entered the house and struck his arm, he recalls.
“I saw the lightning come right in, and I saw it hit my arm — the big white flash,” Bradley said Monday afternoon, revealing a small, circular burn on his forearm.
“It went through my whole body, it just …” Bradley paused. “At that time, I couldn’t really remember too much … but I do remember the hurt.”
He described the pain as “unbearable.”
The average flash of lightning contains enough electricity to light a 100-watt lightbulb for more than three months, according to the National Weather Service.
“After that, it quickly drained my body to the point where I just wanted to pass out,” Bradley said.
Goulas called an ambulance and tried to keep Bradley awake. He remembers losing consciousness at least two times, and for a few minutes, he didn’t recognize his girlfriend.
“She grabbed me by my shirt and said, ‘You are not doing this. You’re not going to fall asleep on me,’” Bradley said.
While keeping him conscious, Goulas reminded Bradley that they were adopting two puppies the next day, something he’d been looking forward to. He couldn’t miss it, she told him.
About 10 percent of people struck by lightning are killed, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects, according to NOAA National Weather Service.
The ambulance brought Bradley to Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, where he was cared for and released later that evening. He plans to see his primary care physician this week for potential nerve damage and lasting pain. Since the incident, he has noticed increased clumsiness, such as dropping things and tripping.
According to the National Weather Service, lightning primarily causes brain and nerve injury, but serious burns seldom occur. People who don’t suffer cardiac arrest at the time of the incident may experience lesser symptoms, such as muscle soreness, headache, nausea, mild confusion, memory slowness, mental clouding, dizziness and balance problems.
Current data from the National Weather Service lists the recent national average of deaths due to lightning at 55 per year, but the number used to be much higher. In the 1940s, lightning killed more than 300 Americans each year, on average. Some experts believe the decline in deaths is due to increased public awareness about safety during storms.
No place outside is safe during a lightning storm, warns the agency. And indoors, there are certain measures you can take to increase your safety during a thunderstorm:
• Avoid contact with any equipment connected to electrical power, such as computers or appliances.
• Avoid contact with water or plumbing.
• Stay off corded phones.
• Stay away from windows and doors.
• Remain inside for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard.
“I consider myself real lucky, you know, like I have angels watching over me, keeping me going,” Bradley said.
Bradley was in a car accident in 1999 in which he broke both legs and his pelvis, after which he had to use a wheelchair for about a year. Comparing the two accidents, he says that the lightning strike was scarier.
“I’m like a cat with nine lives or something,” he added with a chuckle. “My step father calls me ‘lightbulb’ now.”
On Saturday, Bradley and his family went ahead with their plan to adopt two puppies, pit bull-lab mixes he named Caesar and Asya. Bradley said he thinks both will help him in his recovery — physically and mentally.
To learn about lightning safety, visit www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.