Florida had highest density of lightning strikes in 2018

Published: Jan. 9, 2019 at 7:23 PM EST
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By: Brittany Bedi | WCTV Pinpoint Weather Team

January 9, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Data presented at the American Meteorological Society annual conference is shining a light on how often lightning strikes the Sunshine State.

According to data from Vaisala and the National Lightning Detection Network, Florida is the state with the second-most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the country during 2018. A total of 1,385,710 strikes were recorded in Florida last year. Georgia had the 10th highest number of strikes at 693,776 during 2018.

Florida also had the highest density of cloud-to-ground lightning flashes per square kilometer, at 9.34 flashes/sq km. The state also had the highest density of flashes per square mile.

Within Florida, Lafayette county was in the top five counties for lightning flashes.

Out of the entire country, 14 Florida counties make up the top 15 counties with the most lightning strikes.

These statistics may be surprising to some, but for lightning protection professionals, it’s expected. Eric Birster is the Tallahassee division manager for Bonded Lightning Protection.

Birster saw lightning damage firsthand when it struck a friend’s home.

"It was almost a complete loss,” said Birster. “They had a lightning strike that hit the top of their home, got into their attic area and actually caused a fire in their attic space, which burned a pretty good portion of their home. "

Birster took steps to install multiple lightning rods to the high points of his home to protect it.

“It doesn’t have to be a big building or skyscraper. Lightning can strike anywhere.

Though Florida had more than a million lightning strikes in 2018, lightning strikes were 11% lower than the ten-year average.

The reason could be largely due to the face that there were fewer large thunderstorms during the severe weather season in the midwest and plains. Those thunderstorms would usually form in an area where two very different air masses meet.

While the lightning strike numbers are lower than average, Florida still had seven lightning fatalities. Georgia had one reported lightning fatality in 2018.