Does your heart skip a beat or two at the sound of lightning in the distance? Have you adopted the weather-predicting trick of counting the seconds between a lightning strike and thunderous bang and dividing by five to be sure it’s a safe distance away? Fears of thunderstorms and lightning are common, but it’s time to learn if those concerns are grounded in reality.
According to the National Weather Service, from 1989 to 2018, the U.S. averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year. Just 10% of those who were struck were killed and 25% had lasting physical or psychological trauma. The numbers have dropped in the past decade, with about 27 average lightning fatalities each year since 2009.
So, mathematically speaking, given the size of the U.S. population in 2019 (330 million) and the estimated number of injuries from lightning strikes (243), the odds of being struck by lightning in an 80-year lifetime are 1 in 15,300.
Though the odds are long, it’s better to be safe around lightning, whether it's a summer storm or a devastating natural disaster. No place outside is safe during a thunderstorm, so seek shelter and stay away from windows, plumbing or electrical appliances and sockets. If you're not at a home or other building, seek shelter in a car with a solid metal roof. Extreme lightning is just one example of the sort of weather you should expect to see in the spring and summer.