Lightning

As of the June 1, 2015 there have been six lightning fatalities, two in North Carolina and one each in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and West Virginia, according to statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In 2014 the number of direct lightning fatalities rose to 26 from a record low of 23 in 2013. From 2004 to 2013 on average about 33 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Going back over the last 30 years, 51 people died each year on average from lightning strikes. 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.

The top states for lightning deaths in 2014 were Florida, with six deaths and Wisconsin with three deaths. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia and Massachusetts each had two deaths. Seven additional states reported one lightning death in 2014: California, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas.

 

LIGHTNING FATALITIES BY STATE, 2014

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

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Lightning strikes cost $739 million in homeowners insurance losses in 2014, up 9.7 percent from 2013, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. and State Farm ® found there were 99,871 lightning claims in 2014, down 13.0 percent from 2013. The I.I.I. put the average lightning claim at $7,400 in 2014, up 26.1 percent from 2013. Florida had the largest number of homeowner insurance claims for lighting losses in 2014, followed by Georgia and Texas, according to the I.I.I.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE CLAIMS AND PAYOUT FOR LIGHTNING LOSSES, 2010-2014

            Percent change
  2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2013-2014 2010-2014
Number of paid claims 213,278 186,307 151,000 114,740 99,871 -13.0% -53.2%
Insured losses ($ millions) $1,033.5 $952.5 $969.0 $673.5 $739.0 9.7 -28.5
Average cost per claim $4,846 $5,112 $6,400 $5,869 $7,400 26.1 52.7

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

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  • Lightning damage averaged about $700 million in homeowners insurance claims each year from 2013 to 2014, according to an analysis by the Insurance Information Institute, down from about $1 billion each year from 2010 to 2012. In 2014 homeowners insurance claims losses rose 9.7 percent to $739 million from $673.5 million in 2013.

 

2014 WEATHER EVENTS, FATALITIES, INJURIES AND DAMAGE (1)

Weather events Fatalities Injuries Property damage
($ millions)
Crop damage
($ millions)
Total damage
($ millions)
Lightning 26 154 $30.21 $0.01 $30.23
Tornado 47 641 621.62 14.07 635.69
Thunderstorm wind 30 233 232.57 143.34 375.90
Hail 0 23 1,416.88 293.19 1,710.06
Total 103 1,051 $2,301.28 $450.61 $2,751.88

(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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TOP TEN STATES FOR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE LIGHTNING LOSSES BY NUMBER OF CLAIMS, 2014

Rank State Number of paid claims Insured losses ($ millions) Average cost per claim
1 Florida 10,440 $73.9 $7,075
2 Georgia 9,805 62.2 6,341
3 Texas 5,622 60.0 10,671
4 Louisiana 5,007 25.1 5,009
5 North Carolina 4,886 28.8 5,891
6 Alabama 4,853 39.2 8,079
7 Illinois 4,049 25.7 6,348
8 Pennsylvania 3,960 21.7 5,491
9 Tennessee 3,638 31.2 8,583
10 Indiana 3,262 22.3 6,832

Source: Insurance Information Institute, State Farm®.

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  • There were 10,440 lightning-related homeowners insurance claims in Florida in 2014, the highest among the states.

Lightning Fires in Residential Vs. Non-Residential Properties

From 2007 to 2011 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.