Lightning Odds, Facts and Statistics

Lightning is one of Mother nature’s offerings that captures everyone’s attention because there’s just the right mix of fear and curiosity which draws folks to the show. Moreover, the amounts of ozone and nitrogen oxides created by lightning surpass those generated by human activities in that level of the atmosphere (source: NASA)!

Below is a comprehensive list of lightning facts and statistics. Everything listed on this page has been verified with valid sources, such as NOAA, NASA, The National Weather Service (NWS), and medical professionals.

Although some of the tid-bits mentioned here may seem far-fetched, they are in fact all true! Including the hard to believe life of Roy Sullivan who was struck by lightning a total of 7 times throughout his life!

Lightning Odds

  • The odds of getting struck by lightning in the U.S. in any single year is 1 in 500,000.
  • The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 5,000.
  • Using an umbrella in a thunderstorm only slightly increases your odds of being struck.
  • Males are five times more likely than females to be struck by lightning; around 85% of lightning fatalities are men.

Lightning Science

  • A single lightning bolt is about 50,000°F or 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun.
  • A lightning bolt is anywhere from 1,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 volts and between 10,000 and 200,000 amps. Or about 215 kWh (kilowatt hours).
  • There are two types of lightning; negative strikes and positive strikes. Positive strikes are 5 times more powerful than negative strikes and positive charge flows instead of negative.
  • The average lightning bolt could light a 100 watt light bulb non-stop for about 3 months.
  • The average lightning bolt is 6 miles long, although Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center has indicated some as long as 75 miles.
  • The thickness of a lightning bolt is about the size of a silver dollar. It only looks bigger because it is so bright.
  • A lightning bolt is made of a series of strokes from about 3 to 20, with an average of about four. The duration of each lightning bolt can vary, but typically average about 30 microseconds.
  • The US Department of Energy says the speed of lightning is 93,000 miles per second, although the light produced travels at the speed of light (186,282 miles per second).
  • If your hair stands on end during a storm, that’s a bad sign. It means positive charge is building up around you and your chances of being struck are extremely high.

Lightning Statistics

  • In this order Florida, Texas and Alabama are the top 3 states for deaths caused by lightning.
  • About 43 people die from lightning strikes each year in the United States based on data from 1989 to 2018.
  • About 10% of those unfortunate enough to be struck by lightning die.
  • From 1959 to 2003 a total of 3,696 people have been killed by lightning.
  • Around the world there are about 8 million lightning strikes each day.
  • On average, there is an estimated 114,000 lightning insurance claims are filed each year in the United States. That’s about 1 claim for every 193 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.
  • Lightning causes about $450,000,000 in damages each year in the United States.
  • There are about 22,500 forest fires started by lightning each year in the United States.
  • Lightning kills more people that tornadoes and hurricanes combined. It is the single most dangerous thing produced by a thunderstorm.
  • Approximately 494,000 cloud to ground lightning strikes occur in Colorado each year. Colorado ranks 26th in the nation.
  • Lightning occurs 40–50 times a second worldwide, for a total of nearly 1.4 billion flashes per year. But not all of it hits the ground.
  • July is generally the month with the most lightning.
  • Lightning strikes often occur in the afternoon. Two-thirds of all lightning casualties occur between noon and 6pm.
  • More than a third of lightning strike deaths occur on farms.
  • The Earth is struck by lightning nearly 20 million times each year.
  • Florida has the highest lightning strike density of anywhere in the U.S. (about 12 strikes for every square mile per year).
  • The small village of Kifuka in the mountains of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo receives the most lightning strikes of anywhere on Earth. On average this region receives 158 lightning strikes per 1 square kilometer (0.39 sq mi) per year.

Lightning Oddities

  • Many survivors of lightning strikes report that right before being struck their hair was standing on end and they had a metallic taste in their mouth.
  • Lightning causes objects to explode because it instantly turns any water to steam. This includes concrete, trees, asphalt and clothes. It’s been known to blow the clothes off people due to the sweat/water instantly vaporizing creating a steam explosion.
  • About 1% of all lightning deaths in the U.S. are a result of people talking on a corded phone during a thunderstorm.
  • The U.S. Agricultural Department estimates 80% of accidental livestock deaths are a result of lightning strikes.
  • The irrational fear of lightning is known as keraunophobia. The fear of thunder is termed brontophobia.
  • Park Ranger Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning 7 times between 1942 and 1977.

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