Lightning

In 2016 there were 38 lightning deaths in the United States, compared with 26 in 2015 and 2014. From 2006 to 2016 on average about 31 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. The significant decline in lightning deaths is due to fewer farmers working in fields, along with technological advances, better lightning protection and awareness of lightning safety.

Florida had the most lightning deaths in 2016 with nine deaths, followed by four in Louisiana and New York, according to statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Mississippi reported three deaths, and Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas had two lightning deaths.  Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin each reported one death.

 

Lightning Fatalities By State, 2016

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 and electrical surges in the United States rose in 2016, compared with 2015; however, the average cost that insurers paid on those claims fell. More than $825 million in lightning claims was paid out in 2016 to more than 100,000 policyholders. Total insured losses caused by lightning rose 4.5 percent from 2015 to 2016, although overall losses have declined 12.4 percent since 2007. There were 109,049 lightning claims in 2016, up 9.7 percent from 2015. Over fifty percent of claims were related to electrical surge damaging components or wiring, while power surges from transformer or service line shorts were also contributing factors. “The average cost per claim dropped 4.7 percent from 2015 to 2016,” said James Lynch, FCAS MAAA, chief actuary at the I.I.I. “However, the overall average cost per claim has risen 42.3 percent since 2007. By comparison,” he noted, “The Consumer Price Index rose only 15.8 percent in the same period.”

 

Homeowners Insurance Claims And Payout for Lightning Losses, 2007-2016

 

Year Value of Claims ($ millions) Number of Claims Average Cost Per Claim
2007 $942.4 177,100 $5,321.0
2008 1,065.5 246,200 4,329.0
2009 798.2 185,789 4,296.0
2010 1,033.5 213,278 4,846.0
2011 952.5 186,307 5,112.0
2012 969.0 151,000 6,400.0
2013 673.5 114,740 5,869.0
2014 739.0 99,871 7,400.0
2015 790.1 99,423 7,947.0
2016 825.7 109,049 7,571.9
Percent change, 2015-2016 4.5% 9.7% -4.7%
Percent change, 2007-2016 -12.4% -38.4% 42.3%

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

 

Top Ten States For Homeowners Insurance Lightning Losses By Number Of Claims, 2016

Rank State Number of paid claims Insured losses ($ millions) Average cost per claim
1 Florida 10,385 $67.8 $6,526
2 Texas 9,098 87.2 9,580
3 Georgia 8,037 66.3 8,250
4 Louisiana 5,956 31.5 5,291
5 North Carolina 5,889 42.2 7,162
6 California 4,764 47.4 9,951
7 Alabama 4,294 28.4 6,604
8 Illinois 3,870 28.7 7,424
9 Arkansas 3,422 20.1 5,882
10 Virginia 3,331 26.8 8,036
  Total, top 10 59,046 $446.3 $7,559

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

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2016 Convective Weather Events, Fatalities, Injuries And Damage (1)

Convective weather events Fatalities Injuries Property damage
($ millions)
Crop damage
($ millions)
Total damage
($ millions)
Lightning 38 120 $23.02 $0.01 $23.03
Tornado 18 325 181.16 2.32 183.48
Thunderstorm wind 20 116 144.89 4.48 149.37
Hail 0 21 3,512.67 23.73 3,536.40
Total 76 582 $3,861.74 $30.54 $3,892.28

(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.