iStock/Thinkstock(SENECA, S.C.) — A South Carolina man who says he’s been struck by lightning ten times compares the feeling to being zapped inside a microwave.
“When it hits you, it’s like being hit by a freight train. It knocks you out, knocks you down,” Melvin Roberts of Seneca, South Carolina, told ABC News Monday. “You can tell what’s around, you just don’t have any control over your body.”
“It’s like grabbing an electrical cord,” he added. “You don’t feel the burns until it’s over with. It cooks you from the inside out like being in a microwave. And you’ve got a hurting in your bones.”
Roberts made headlines in 2011 when he was struck by lightning for the sixth time, and his wife says he’s been struck four more times since then. If her count is correct, that would make him the world record-holder for most lighting strikes survived, although Guinness World Records still lists Roy C. Sullivan as the record holder.
Sullivan, a park ranger who died in 1983, was struck by lightning seven times. Guinness World Records did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Roberts, a retired heavy equipment operator, can barely remember all the times he’s been struck. There were a couple times when he was on his lawnmower, another time when he was trying to cover the mower up before the rain came, and yet another time when he was helping his aunt hang a tarp on her porch.
“It’s like a big syringe in the sky and when it hits you it puts all this different stuff in your body,” he said. “It turns your insides completely around.”
But it doesn’t hurt — at least not at first, Roberts recalled.
“You’re in shock,” he explained. “Now, when you come to, that’s a different thing. You’ve got big old blisters on you. It takes a long time to get over it.”
As a result, he said he suffers from memory loss, headaches, speech problems and has nerve damage in his hands and left leg because of the strikes. Roberts also can’t hear well, so he doesn’t always know when there’s thunder — that might be a reason he appears to be such a target for lightning, he said.
But John Jensenius, the National Weather Service’s lightning expert, says it’s a myth that once someone is struck, they’re more likely than anyone else to be struck again. He noted that people who work outdoors are more vulnerable.
“Nothing attracts lightning,” he said. “It generally does strike the tallest thing, like trees.”
He recommends people seek shelter if they hear thunder and stay away from tall trees, doors, windows and anything that conducts electricity.
People struck by lightning can suffer neurological damage, burns, memory loss, headaches and changes in personality, and the strike could also stop their heart, Jensenius said.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio