Where is lightning most likely to occur?

Lightning tends to strike more often over land masses than over oceans, and it is more frequently seen in the tropics, where two-thirds of the electrical storms happen.

What are keraunophobia and brontophobia?

Keraunophobia is the fear of lightning, and brontophobia—sometimes called tonitrophobia—is the fear of thunder.

How much energy does one bolt of lightning contain?

A bolt of lighting contains enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for three months. To be more technical, each stroke of lightning has about 30,000 amps and one million volts of power, on average. Some "superbolts" can have up to 300,000 amps of power.

Do people frequently die from lightning strokes?

Depending on sources, anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of people who are hit by lightning die from their injuries. The danger is not so much from burns but rather from the electrical energy stopping a person's heart. This is why CPR usually is necessary when someone is struck unconscious by lightning. More often, people who have been thus injured will be in severe pain and will be screaming as a result. While they of course will need medical attention, their prognosis for survival is much better than that of the unconscious person.

What is one strange warning sign that lightning may be about to strike?

As the static charge begins to build as a precursor to a lightning stroke, people's hair may stand on end and you can feel the static charge in the air. It has also been known to happen that a plastic rain coat will begin to rise into the air, or that a cast fishing line will bizarrely remain suspended in air. Any of these signs are a warning to seek immediate shelter.

What did NASA and the U.S. military discover about triggered lightning?

During a couple of space launches, NASA learned that ionized exhaust from rockets can trigger a lightning stroke if rain clouds are nearby. This happened during one of the Apollo missions, though with no dire consequences. More infamously, in 1987 an Air Force rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida was hit by lightning. The rocket was destroyed at a cost of $162 million. Scientists have known about triggered lightning for a long time, and they sometimes attach copper lines to small rockets to attract lightning for research purposes. Lightning caused by rocket exhaust, though, is an unintentional side effect.

NASA discovered that its spacecraft could attract lightning, and so they now build lightning towers around launch pads as a protective measure. (NASA)

NASA discovered that its spacecraft could attract lightning, and so they now build lightning towers around launch pads as a protective measure. (NASA)

During what part of a thunderstorm's duration is there the most risk of being struck by lightning?

Statistics show that more people are hit by lightning strokes toward the end of a thunderstorm. This is not because there is more lightning at that time, but rather because people get too anxious to go outside before the storm is completely over.

How many people are killed in the United States by lightning?

The U.S. total from 1959 to 2003 is 3,696 deaths. About 60 people die each year from lightning; about 300 are injured annually. The highest death rates are in Florida (425 killed between 1959 and 2003), making it the most dangerous state to live in when it comes to lightning injuries. Below is a state-by-state listing using the most recent data from NOAA.

Total Lightning Deaths in the U.S. from 1995 to 2004

State Rank

Number of Deaths

Deaths per Million Residents

1. Florida

85

0.53

2. Texas

34

0.16

3. Colorado

31

0.72

4. Ohio

22

0.19

5.

Georgia

19

0.23

6.

Alabama

18

0.40

7.

Louisiana

17

0.38

7.

North Carolina

17

0.21

8.

South Carolina

14

0.35

9.

Utah

13

0.58

10.

Illinois

12

0.10

10.

Indiana

12

0.20

10.

Pennsylvania

12

0.10

10.

Virginia

12

0.17

11.

Michigan

11

0.11

12.

Oklahoma

10

0.29

12.

Tennessee

10

0.18

13.

Mississippi

9

0.32

13.

Wisconsin

9

0.17

14.

Arkansas

8

0.30

15.

Arizona

7

0.14

15.

Maryland

7

0.13

15.

Missouri

7

0.13

15.

New Mexico

7

0.38

15.

New York

7

0.04

16.

Idaho

6

0.46

16.

Minnesota

6

0.12

16.

Montana

6

0.66

16.

New Jersey

6

0.07

16.

Wyoming

6

1.21

17.

California

5

0.01

17.

Iowa

5

0.17

17.

Kansas

5

0.19

17.

Kentucky

5

0.12

17.

West Virginia

5

0.28

18.

Nebraska

3

0.18

18.

Puerto Rico

3

0.08

18.

South Dakota

3

0.40

18.

Vermont

3

0.49

19.

Connecticut

2

0.06

19.

Massachusetts

2

0.03

19.

Washington

2

0.03

20.

Maine

1

0.08

20.

North Dakota

1

0.16

20.

Oregon

1

0.03

20.

Rhode Island

1

0.10

21.

Alaska

0

0

Who are some of the unluckiest people when it comes to being struck by lightning?

U.S. Park Ranger Roy C. Sullivan (1912-1983) survived being struck by lightning seven times between 1942 and 1977. This Virginia ranger was hit once in a car, once in a truck, once while fishing, once while camping, once in his own front yard, once in a ranger station, and once while on top of a lookout tower. Years after his death, he still holds the dubious honor of being the "Human Lightning Rod."

In another peculiar case, a Midwestern family has had numerous members struck by lightning. One woman had been struck by lightning twice—in 1965 and 1995—her grandfather was killed by a 1921 lightning bolt, while her great uncle was also killed in the 1920s; her nephew was temporarily blinded when he was hit; and she also had a cousin who was less seriously injured while holding an umbrella in a storm.

State Rank

Number of Deaths

Deaths per Million Residents

21. Delaware

0

0

21. Washington, D.C.

0

0

21. Hawaii

0

0

21. Nevada

0

0

21. New Hampshire

0

0

 
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