Lightning — once one of nature’s biggest killers —is claiming far fewer lives in the United States, mostly because we’ve learned to get out of the way.
In the 1940s, when there were fewer people, lightning killed more than 300 people annually. So far this year, 13 people have died after being struck, on pace for a record low of 17 deaths. Taking the growing population into account, the lightning death rate has shrunk more than forty-fold since record-keeping began in 1940.
People seem to be capturing the phenomenon more on camera than before, making it seem like something new and sizzling is going on in the air. Separate videos last month of a Florida lifeguard and an airport worker being hit by lightning went viral. Both survived.
Lightning strikes have not changed — they hit about the same amount as they used to, said Pennsylvania State University meteorology professor