Jesse Ferrell

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More Surprising 2009 Lightning Stats

June 8, 2009; 10:20 AM ET

Here's an impressive video of the lightning last night in Denver, Colorado (see also the Tornado and damage video at right):

We published an article last week saying:

"So far, 2009 has been a deadly year for lightning strikes. Two people were killed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of lightning-related deaths to six, with 50 injuries reported total. A Southwest Airlines plane was struck by lightning in California earlier this week. Is this trend of lightning strikes on people and airplanes abnormal this year? The number of deaths and the number of airplanes hit does not seem out of the ordinary this year. Actually, the number of lightning flashes is considerably less than what was reported this time last year. As of June 3, 2009, there have been 5,589,686 flashes, with 6,517,381 reported by June 3, 2008.* As for aircraft, 66 have reported lightning strikes so far this year. Last year, 55 reported lightning strikes to airplanes occurred through May."

We started out writing that article assuming we could find trends that suggested that lightning was worse this Spring because it seems like there has been a flurry of media reports in the past month. We thought maybe the speed of the storms (slow or fast) was causing more deadly lightning strikes. But we ended up answering the question of why there have been less lightning strikes than usual:

"One of the reasons for this could be colder-than-normal weather across the northern tier of the country that has suppressed the number of thunderstorms and has significantly reduced the number of tornadoes this year. The number of reported tornadoes so far this year is 685, just over half of the average annual amount, which is 1,297."

Here are some more stats to chew on:

THE GOOD NEWS: U.S. LIGHTNING DEATHS HAVE BEEN DECREASING SINCE 1943

Struckbylightning.Org says that 6 people have been killed and 50 injured by lightning in 2009 so far. In 2008, 27 were killed with 303 injured. The 2008 fatalities were 81% male and 70% adult. Sunday was the most likely day to be injured and under a tree was the most common location.

The National Weather Service puts the 2008 numbers at 28 deaths (compared to an average of 44) and 215 injuries, with over $60 million in property damages. For the 10th consecutive year, Florida was the most dangerous state (tying with Colorado's 4 fatalities). In general, lightning deaths have been decreasing since 1940. The most recent years with a high number of deaths were 2000 and 2002 with 51. Open areas outside were the most likely place to be killed by lightning.

Google News says that news reports of being struck by lightning have been increasing steadily since 1981, likely due to better communication between the public and news agencies, especially local television stations.

Search trends for "struck by lightning" have remained generally steady since 2005, spiking in the Spring and Summer.

As far as planes being struck by lightning, Google News searches showed these occurrences, averaging 6-8 reports per year but only 2007 had as many before today's date. Searching news is challenging because one big report can get spread across multiple media outlets. In the data below, I attempted to isolate individual events. (I'm not sure where we got the data above saying 66 in 2009 vs. 55).

Jun 6, 2009 Ireland

Jun 2, 2009 U.S.

Jun 1, 2009 Brazil (?)

Apr 11, 2009 England

Jan 24, 2009 Australia

Nov 4, 2008 Ireland

Oct 9, 2008 U.S.

Oct 5, 2008 Netherlands

Sep 3, 2008 Namibia

Aug 5, 2008 Ireland

Jul 8, 2008 U.S.

Apr 10, 2008 Ireland (Prime Minister)

Nov 23, 2007 Bahrain

Jul 20, 2007 U.S.

Jul 2, 2007 U.S.

Jun 8, 2007 Australia

Jun, 2007 Scotland

May 27, 2007 U.S.

May 5, 2007 U.S.

Feb 1, 2007 U.S.

Nov 29, 2006 England

May 14, 2006 U.S. (Kennedy)

May 8, 2006 Australia

*Data by Vaisala.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.