Volts and Victims: Lightning Strikes by the Numbers

Image: Lightning strikes in California

Lightning forks over downtown San Francisco in 2013. Noah Berger / AP file

Lightning strikes killed a man on Sunday and injured 14 people during what meteorologists say was a rare thunderstorm in southern California. How prevalent are lightning strikes and injuries across the U.S. and the globe?


51 people die each year in the United States from lightning strikes based on the average between 1984 and 2013, according to the National Weather Service. Eighty-one percent of the fatalities were male between 1995 and 2011, according to the NWS. Sixteen people have died in the U.S. so far this year, including Sunday's incident, according to meteorologist Nick Wiltgen.

131: The number of people killed by lightning strikes in the U.S. during the deadliest year, in 1969, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 1968 and 2010, deaths from lightning in the U.S. decreased by 78.6 percent among males and 70.6 percent among females, according to the CDC.

90 percent of lightning strike victims survive. A quick response and prompt medical treatment for victims is imperative, and the myth that a person who has been struck can shock anyone who touches them is false, according to FEMA.

1 billion: A lightning strike can deliver up to 1 billion volts, according to the NWS. Comparatively a typical AA battery has a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts.

3 billion: The amount of lightning strikes that hit Earth each year, according to That means lightning strikes 8.6 million times each day and 100 times each second. The area with the highest lightning activity is over the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while Florida tends to get the most lightning activity in the U.S., according to NASA data.

30 minutes: The amount of time people should stay indoors after the last rumble of thunder is heard in order to stay safe, according to the National Weather Service.

10 miles: Lightning can strike right at the base of a cloud, but can also travel more than 10 miles from the spot of any noticeable rain, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The NWS warns that if you can hear thunder, you are at risk. Remember the handy slogan, "when thunder roars, go indoors."