The year 2013 set a record for the fewest lightning deaths in a year in the USA. There were 23 fatalities directly attributed to lightning, according to data from the National Weather Service.
The previous record low was in 2011, which had 26 deaths. Accurate lightning death records go back 73 years to 1940.
and Arizona led the nation in 2013 lightning deaths with four each;
followed by Texas, Illinois and Kentucky with two each," said
meteorologist and lightning expert John Jensenius of the weather
service. "Nine other states contributed one death each."
usually sees the most deaths per year. In particular, central Florida is
the lightning capital of the USA, typically having more than 100 days
with thunderstorms each year.
Last year, victims' ages ranged from 8 to 66.
the past 30 years, about 52 people on average die each year from
lightning strikes. Going way back, in the 1940s, hundreds of people were
killed each year by lightning; in 1943 alone, 432 people died.
we don't like to see any lightning deaths, the continuing reduction in
yearly fatalities is encouraging," Jensenius said.
Why the huge
drop in deaths, especially compared with decades ago, even though the
population is more than twice what it was then? "Comparisons show that
the decrease in lightning risk to people coincides with a shift in
population from rural to urban regions," wrote meteorologist Ronald
Holle in an article in the Journal of Applied Meteorology.
were many, many more small farmers who were out working in fields,"
Jensenius said, which resulted in many more chances to be struck by
Other reasons for the drop in lightning-related fatalities over the years:
•All phones were corded, and there were quite a few deaths due to people speaking on the phone.
•Better lightning protection, suppression and grounding in electrical and phone lines.
•More concern and awareness of lightning safety, due in part to advances in media communication.
•Medical advances in treating lightning strike victims.
year was also a relatively quiet year in the USA for severe
thunderstorms, which produce large hail, tornadoes or very strong
winds. Could this have been a factor in the record low number of
"I have never tried to correlate the two;
however, I doubt that there'd be much of a correlation," Jensenius said.
"Very few lightning deaths seem to occur during 'severe' weather. As
for non-severe thunderstorms, overall, the number of thunderstorms
doesn't vary much from year to year across the United States, so I don't
think there's much of a correlation there either."
according to Jensenius, of the 23 deaths, 17 were male and 6 were
female. This is a fairly typical average: During the period from
2006-12, males accounted for 82% of all lightning deaths in the USA.
10% of people struck by lightning are killed, according to weather
service data, while the remaining 90% are left with varying levels of
disability. A lightning strike can cause acute trauma to the nervous
system and impact a victim's memory and personality.
service reminds that there is no safe place outside when thunderstorms
are in the area. According to Weather Channel severe weather expert Greg
Forbes, the safest places to be if lightning threatens are inside a
building with plumbing and wiring or inside a metal-bodied and