As children, often nothing seems scarier than thunder and lightning. Where you live, though, makes a difference as to how many lightning storms you’re likely to endure. Some parts of the United States are more prone to them than others, due to climate, elevation, and natural (and unnatural) conductors.
While it might be the thunder that most terrifies people (and their pets, too), lightning is the real danger in a thunderstorm. (Speaking of storms, here are the most devastating natural disasters in America in 2021).
As an electrostatic discharge, a single lightning stroke (the correct meteorological term, though most of us think of them as “strikes”) releases an immense amount of energy, and can be extremely dangerous if it makes contact with a conductor – for instance, a human being. From 1959 to 1994, according to the National Weather Service, there were over 10,000 lightning-related deaths, injuries, and reported damages in this country, and an average of 49 people are killed by lightning every year. (Lightning also sparks forest and brush fires. These have been the 30 most destructive wildfires in the US this century.)
Suffice to say, lightning can strike a lot more than once, and a lot more in some places than others. To determine which states are struck with the most lightning, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2021 Annual Lightning Report from the environmental data company Vaisala. States were ranked on the total number of cloud-to-ground strokes plus cloud pulses (lightning flashes that don’t connect with the earth’s surface) in 2021, as well as the number of events per square kilometer. We converted those numbers to events per square mile using data on the total area of each state – both land and water – from the U.S. Census Bureau, which was also the source of population figures.