After the deadliest year for lightning in nearly a decade in 2016, 2017 has gotten off to a historically low start nationwide.
‘Only’ four people have died so far from lightning so far in 2017, according to official statistics kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That figure is the lowest nationwide total through July 9th since detailed records of U.S. lightning fatalities began in 2006, and it’s also far below typical levels for this point of the year.
It’s a notable downward tick from 2016 in particular, when 39 people died over the full year, including 10 who had already died by the end of June. On average, 48 Americans die from lightning strikes per year (30-year average, 1986-2016), according to NOAA.
Overall, severe thunderstorm reports in 2017, through June, are at about 14,200 total nationwide as opposed to roughly 11,000 through the same point in 2016. In other words, thunderstorm severity and coverage decreases are not likely behind the downward trend in lightning fatality numbers.
Likely, based on nothing more than preliminary numbers and meteorological assessment, this is mostly a credit to the public heeding warnings and seeking shelter during storms. We certainly hope this trend continues through the rest of 2017 and beyond.
Always remember, if you can hear thunder, that means that you are close enough to be struck by lightning. When thunder roars, head indoors!
Stay safe and remember again, when thunder roars, head indoors!
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi
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