We could file this post under the “no news is good news” category, but then, why would you bother reading it? Actually, I’m not sure that category exists, but maybe there’s potential in that idea. So, why am I writing about lightning fatalities? The answer is typical of a meteorologist: I want you to stay vigilant as we head into the time of the year when most occur.
As of today, there has been only one lightning fatality in the lower 48 states. It happened on May 8th in Douglas County, Colorado. A lady was riding a horse in an open field near a tree, and was struck and killed. While one is one too many, this year has a notably good track record so far. Over the last ten years, the average number of lightning deaths by the end of May is five and the average for an entire year is 30. Last year ended above average with 38.
Here are some more random lightning facts for your Front Porch conversations:
June and July tend to have the most lightning fatalities with an average of seven and ten respectively. There could be several reasons, but more people being outside during the summer months and more heat energy available to create convective storms are likely the largest contributors to those numbers.
According to statistics from the National Weather Service, “only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability.”
Your chances of being struck by lightning really are better than your chances of winning the jackpot in the Powerball lottery. Those odds are one in 292,201,338. Your odds of being struck by lightning in the United States over an 80-year lifetime are one in 13,000. I’m not a gambler, but I would bet on lightning over wasting two dollars on a lottery ticket.
Florida has the highest cloud-to-ground lightning flash density in the country with 20.8 flashes per square mile. Louisiana and Mississippi come in second and third, respectively. North Carolina ranks at number 20 out of 49 with an average of 8.8 flashes per square mile. Washington state has the least with 0.4. This data was collected by the Vaisala National Lightning Detection Network over the period 2007-2016.
A recent Florida Tech study confirmed that cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are more powerful over the ocean than over land. Scientists already suspected that the ocean was the more dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm. Now they have reason to believe that “people living on or near the ocean may be at greater risk for lightning damage if storms develop over oceans and move on-shore.”