Lightning Casualties and Damages in the United States from 1959 to 1994

Curran, E. Brian; Holle, Ronald L.; Pez, E. Ló
October 2000
Journal of Climate;10/1/2000, Vol. 13 Issue 19, p3448
Academic Journal
Lightning-caused fatalities, injuries, and damage reports for the United States are listed in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publication Storm Data. Previously published studies of lightning casualties and damages in the United States covered only portions of the period since Storm Data began publication in 1959, did not weight by population, or did not present complete information with respect to time of year and day. Therefore, an analysis was made of all 3239 deaths, 9818 injuries, and 19 814 property damage reports in Storm Data due to lightning from 1959 to 1994. This paper depicts lightning casualties (deaths and injuries combined) and damage reports stratified by state and region of the United States, decade, population, time of year and day, and all other information in Storm Data. Florida had the most deaths (345) and injuries (1178) from lightning, and Pennsylvania had the most damage reports (1441). A rate of one fatality per 86 000 cloud-to-ground flashes is estimated from recent lightning detection network information. After population was taken into account, Wyoming and New Mexico had the highest death, injury, and casualty rates. The U.S. rate is 0.42 lightning deaths per million people per year from 1959 to 1994. Highest population-weighted damage rates were on the plains, but the pattern was variable from decade to decade. July had more lightning entries of all types than any other month; damage reports were spread more evenly through the year. Casualties and damages in the northern half of the United States had narrower distributions centered on summer than did the southern half. Two-thirds of the casualties were between noon and 6 P.M.; damage reports were relatively frequent at night in the plains and Midwest. Most lightning incidents involved one person, and males were five times as likely as females to be killed or injured. Storm Data excludes most small losses but includes more expensive and widely known


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