‘If you see it, flee it’: Lightning strike survivor now preaches safety to others

Russ Francis says he was temporarily paralyzed after being hit by a bolt of lightning in 1995

Russ Francis knows he’s a lucky man.

He survived being struck by a lightning bolt on April 10, 1995, while working outside in the rain to repair some communications equipment.

"I heard the loudest noise of my life, and seen the flash," Francis recalled during an interview with FOX Weather.


Francis said he was thrown nearly 15 feet into a nearby ditch and knocked unconscious.

"I remember waking up in the ditch and was able to finally get back into my truck," Francis said. "My whole right side was paralyzed at the time."

Francis said the radio in his work truck was fried by the strike. So, half-paralyzed, he drove the nearly 3 miles to the office to get help.

He’s not alone. According to the National Weather Service, hundreds of people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S. About 50 of them die.


Surviving that strike gave Francis a new mission in life – to prevent other people from being struck. He travels around, educating others about lightning safety, focusing heavily on sporting events.

"It’s not as important to keep the game going, as it is to save people’s lives," Francis said.

The motto that is used by advocates for lightning safety is, "When thunder roars, go indoors." Francis has his own take on that sage advice.

"If you hear it, fear it," he said. "If you see it, flee it."

There were more than 194 million lightning bolts detected across the U.S. in 2021, according to researchers.