Facts + Statistics: Lightning

In 2020 there were 17 direct lightning fatalities, compared with 20 in 2019, according to the National Weather Service. From 2010 to 2019 on average, 26 people died each year from lightning strikes in the United States.

Florida and Texas were tied for the most lightning deaths in 2020 with three deaths, followed by two in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, according to statistics from National Weather Service. California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and South Carolina each reported one lightning death. For more information on lightning claims and payouts, see the Homeowners Claims section.

 
Lightning Fatalities By State, 2020

 

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

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Homeowners insurance losses

For the fourth consecutive year, the number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased in 2020 yet the average cost of those claims more than doubled since 2017, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). 

The number of lightning caused claims fell 6.9 percent to 71,551 claims in 2020 from 76,860 in 2019, while the value of those claims soared 124.6 percent from $920.1 million in 2019 to $2.1 billion in 2020. Lightning-related homeowners insurance claim costs nationally rose dramatically due to a series of lightning strikes across Northern California in 2020, according to the Triple-I. The average cost per lightning claim in California was $217,555 last year while the national average was $28,885 in 2020, up 141.3 percent from $11,971 in 2019.

 
Homeowners Insurance Claims And Payout for Lightning Losses, 2017-2020

 

Year Value of claims
($ millions)
Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim
2017 $916.6   85,020 $10,781
2018   908.9   77,898   11,668
2019   920.1   76,860   11,971
2020   2,066.7   71,551   28,885
Percent change      
2019-2020 124.6% -6.9% 141.3%
2017-2020 125.5 -15.8 167.9

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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Top 10 States For Homeowners Insurance Lightning Losses By Number Of Claims, 2020

 

Rank State Number of
claims
Average cost
per claim
Value of claims
($ millions)
1 Florida   6,756 $21,953 $148.3
2 Georgia   4,686   9,821   46.0
3 Texas   4,675   16,847   78.8
4 California   4,233   217,555   920.9
5 North Carolina   2,898   13,283   38.5
6 New York   2,791   16,533   46.1
7 Louisiana   2,757   8,475   23.4
8 Alabama   2,741   11,334   31.1
9 Pennsylvania   2,378   14,724   35.0
10 Illinois   2,247   10,312   23.2
  Total, top 10   36,162 $38,473 $1,391.3
  Other states   35,389   19,087   675.5
  Total U.S.   71,551 $28,885 $2,066.7

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

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Convective Weather Events, Fatalities, Injuries And Damage, 2019 (1)

 

Convective weather events Fatalities Injuries Property damage
($ millions)
Crop damage
($ millions)
Total damage
($ millions)
Lightning 20 100 $41.15 $0.01 $41.16
Tornado 42 537 3,102.49 5.67 3,108.16
Thunderstorm, wind 38 202 173.04 14.63 187.67
Hail 0 1 177.66 19.27 196.93
Total 100 840 $3,494.34 $39.58 $3,533.92

(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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