Facts + Statistics: Lightning

In 2018 there were 20 direct lightning fatalities, up from 16 in 2017 which was lowest since record-keeping began in 1941. From 2009 to 2018 on average 27 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States, according to the National Weather Service.

Florida had the most lightning deaths in 2018 with seven deaths, followed by three in Tennessee, according to statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Arkansas and Missouri each had two deaths directly related to lightning while Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, New York and Texas each reported one death.

 
Lightning Fatalities By State, 2018

 

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.

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Homeowners insurance losses

The number of homeowners insurance claims from lightning strikes in the United States fell in 2018 for the third consecutive year, but the average cost that insurers paid on those claims has soared since 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute. About $909 million in lightning claims was paid out in 2018 to almost 78,000 policyholders. The value of claims resulting from lightning rose 6.0 percent from 2016 to 2018, but the average cost per claim rose 21.2 percent. “With increased labor and construction costs as well as consumer appetite for smart home products, it’s not surprising that lightning-related homeowners insurance claims costs have risen,” said James Lynch, FCAS MAAA, chief actuary at the I.I.I.

 
Homeowners Insurance Claims And Payout For Lightning Losses, 2016-2018

 

  Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim
Value of claims
($ millions)
2016 89,055 $9,628 $857
2017 85,020 10,781 916.6
2018 77,898 11,668 908.9
Percent change      
2017-2018 -8.4% 8.2% -0.8%
2016-2018 -12.5 21.2 6.0

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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Top 10 States For Homeowners Insurance Lightning Losses By Number Of Claims, 2018

 

Rank State Number of claims Value of claims ($ millions) Average cost per claim
1 Florida 7,108 $74.2 $10,436
2 Georgia 5,539 52.2 9,430
3 California 4,909 137.1 27,932
4 Texas 4,559 67.6 14,819
5 Louisiana 3,553 22.7 6,377
6 North Carolina 3,119 36.1 11,561
7 Alabama 2,942 34.6 11,768
8 New York 2,938 31.9 10,873
9 Pennsylvania 2,590 30.0 11,572
10 Illinois  2,475 25.5 10,290
  Total, top 10 39,732 $511.8 $12,882
  Other states 38,166 397.1 10,405
  Total U.S. 77,898 $908.9 $11,668

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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2018 Convective Weather Events, Fatalities, Injuries And Damage (1)

Convective weather events Fatalities Injuries Property damage
($ millions)
Crop damage
($ millions)
Total damage
($ millions)
Lightning 20 82 $16.06 $0.00 $16.06
Tornado 10 199 670.25 2.07 672.32
Thunderstorm wind 24 155 139.36 16.50 155.86
Hail 0 11 722.78 87.44 810.22
Total 54 447 $1,548.45 $106.01 $1,654.46

(1) Includes the 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service.

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Lightning fires in residential vs. non-residential properties

From 2007 to 2011 (latest data available) local U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 22,600 fires per year that were started by lighting, according to an analysis by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These fires caused an average of nine civilian deaths and $451 million in direct property damage per year, according to the NFPA. Home fires accounted for 19 percent of the lightning fires, fires in non-residential structures, including businesses and other non-residential properties, accounted for 7 percent; vehicle fires accounted for 1 percent. The remaining 73 percent were in outdoor and unclassified properties.

Lightning fires in non-residential properties caused an average of $108 million in direct property damage each year from 2007 to 2011, according to the survey. The average annual damage in non-residential properties includes:

  • $28 million in storage facilities
  • $22 million in places of assembly, such as houses of worship and restaurants
  • $19 million in nonhome residential properties such as hotels and motels
  • $15 million in mercantile and business properties such as offices, specialty shops and department stores
  • $15 million in industrial and manufacturing facilities
  • $3 million in outside properties
  • $3 million in educational and healthcare facilities
  • $3 million in miscellaneous properties

 
Fires Started By Lightning By Type Of Structure, 2007-2011 (1)

(1) Reported to local fire departments.

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

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Lightning Incidents By Month, 2007-2011

Source: National Fire Protection Association.

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For more information on lightning, please see The Lightning Protection Institute.

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