From the far north to the deep south. The “Yellowhammer State” has a humid, subtropical climate which makes it particularly prone to thunderstorms. Around Mobile Bay, on the Gulf Coast, there are 70-80 days every year when thunder is reported. And indeed, with 826,473 average annual flashes between 1997 and 2011, there seems to be quite a lot of lightning too. It’s 4th of the table of flashes per square mile and there were 15 deaths in the 2002-2011 period. There were also 2 deaths in 2012, one of the victims being sadly only 12 years old. So it’s not the best state for anyone with a lightning phobia.
We’re staying in the deep south, with Alabama’s neighbor Mississippi. With a similar humid climate, and sharing a coastline it’s little wonder that this state is equally prone to lightning strikes. The good news is that there were no lightning-related deaths in 2012. the bad news is that there were 10 in the 9 years before that, making it 5th in the league table of deaths per million people. It also has the 3rd highest density of strikes per square mile, with an annual average of 875,820.
So, there’s a lot of lightning and it’s fairly deadly. However, it’s advised that the best way to survive a strike is to shelter indoors, and with Mississippi being known as the “Hospitality State”, you’re bound to find someone who’ll fling open their doors and let you in.
Things are getting serious now, in the lightning-strike stakes, as we move to the “Lone Star State”. It certainly can’t call itself the “Lone Lightning Strike” state. Texas has by far the largest number of strikes on an annual basis, with a whopping 2,912,375. However, its equally impressive size means that per square mile, there are only 11 strikes, making it 18th on the table. In the 2002-2011 death stats, it comes 3rd with 23 but again the sheer size of the state makes it only 27th in the league table. It also had 3 deaths in 2012, although 2 of those were together in a soccer game.
In case you’re also scare of hurricanes, Texas has a lot of those too. From the Galveston hurricane of 1900, which left 8,000 people dead to Hurricane Ike in 2008, Texas has more than its share of extreme weather. Not the state for nervous tourists!
Filling the gap between Texas and Mississippi, here’s Louisiana. The multicultural “Pelican State” has a similar humid climate to its neighbors, so you’d expect an impressive amount of lightning. And you wouldn’t be disappointed! It’s the 2nd most lightning-prone state, with its 909,919 annual average equating to 19.7 flashes per square mile. In terms of lightning deaths, it isn’t too scary though – only 2 in 2012 and they were a father and son, out on a fishing trip together. The 9 deaths between 2002 and 2011 place it 17th for deaths per million people. Still, it’s not the first place an astraphobe would pick for a vacation!
But when it comes to lightning-prone states, there’s one very clear winner. With 56 lightning-related deaths between 2002 and 2011, and a further 5 in 2012 it’s not the safest of states to visit. The number of flashes are second only to Texas, at 1,414,284 and 1st by a long way in the strikes per square mile table.
So why is Florida so full of lightning? It’s something to do with having the Atlantic on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other – sea breeze fronts produce storms every afternoon during the summer. Like Michigan, the state also has a great deal of outdoor activities, which may explain the fatality rates.
With all that stormy activity, it’s no wonder that NASA named it “The Lightning Capital of the World”. If you’re scared of lightning and you’re looking for a state to holiday in, Florida is probably best avoided.