NEW YORK (PIX11) — With Spring in full swing and summer not too far behind, thunderstorms will likely become more frequent.

When there’s thunder, there’s lightning, and getting struck could be deadly. The national weather service reported 19 fatalities in the U.S. last year.

Ninety percent of people struck by lightning survive, but they could have lifelong neurological problems. Long Island native Robert Zeller is lucky to be alive after being struck by lightning in the head last year.

Robert Zeller describes the exact moment before being struck by lightning, it was July 30th, 2022. Based on radar data collected that day, pop-up thunderstorms developed across Coastal South Carolina, which may have triggered a bolt-out-of-the-blue. 

Lightning can strike up to 10-25 miles outside a storm. For The 72-year-old cancer survivor, another life-threatening situation was the last thing on his mind. He moved to South Carolina after losing his wife a decade ago, and his son just a few years later. The Georgetown community was the perfect place to settle. He was five minutes from home when the impact from the strike totaled his car, shattered his phone, and left him unconscious.

The electric shock traveled through his body, leaving behind other scars no longer visible after being treated at a local burn unit. While he says there are no emotional scars left behind, he is still coping with the aftershock and still has trouble hearing since the accident. 

” There’s neurological damage in my hands. Sometimes they hurt. The nerves are still trying to regenerate,” he said.

He was admitted to Emerge Nursing and Rehabilitation at Glen Cove where he graduated from a wheelchair to a walker.

The subacute rehab facility recently received a gold standard for braid injury recovery and is internationally recognized. 

For 45 days, seven days a week Robert came to this facility for 1-hour therapy sessions where he worked on different techniques including speech therapy, free weights, and more. 

No longer angry by his sudden fate, the former x-ray tech and navy vet focuses on the positive and uses humor as a way of healing. He plans to move to New York City and spend more time with his daughter.

Robert Zeller’s story is a reminder to follow lightning safety tips and remember when thunder roars go indoors:

If you hear thunder, that means lightning is close enough and can strike you. Seek shelter immediately.

If you’re outdoors, the safest place to be is inside a vehicle. The metal shell will absorb the electric charge. Avoid pipes, and stay away from metal objects and electrical equipment. If you’re with a larger group in an open field, the best thing to do is separate.

Once in a shelter, stay there for at least 30s minutes until that last rumble of thunder.