Category Archives: Lightning

Lightning-Related Claims Up Sharply in 2023

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

The total value of lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims rose more than 30 percent in 2023, to $1.27 billion from $950 million in 2022, Triple-I estimates based on national claims data provided by State Farm.

The number of claims rose 13.8 percent during the same period, to 70,787 from 62,189, 10 states accounting for 57 percent of the total. The average cost per lightning-caused claim increased 14.6 percent, to $17,513 from $15,280.

“Rising inflation, including higher replacement, construction and labor costs impacted claim costs for the year,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. Triple-I released these estimates to in advance of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, which runs from June 23 to June 29.

“Lightning Safety Awareness Week highlights the dangers lightning poses to life and property and how insurers and policyholders are reducing these risks through effective mitigation efforts,” Kevelighan said.

Florida – the state with the most thunderstorms – remained the top state for number of lightning claims in 2023, with 6,003. However, Texas had the highest average cost per claim at $41,654.

Much of this damage is due to severe convective storms, which are among the most common, and most damaging natural catastrophes in the United States. The result of warm, moist air rising from the earth, these storms manifest in various ways, depending on atmospheric conditions – from drenching thunderstorms with lightning, to tornadoes, hail, or destructive straight-line winds.

Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies.  Some homeowners policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike. 

Top 10 States for Homeowners Insurance Lightning Losses by Number of Claims, 2023

RankStateValue of ClaimsNo. of  ClaimsAvg. Cost per claim
7North Carolina$35,544,2432,881$12,337
8New York$50,785,8482,458$20,659
Top 10 States$712,802,32036,684$19,431
Source: Insurance Information, State Farm ®

“Mitigating the risks of lightning strikes starts with a thorough assessment before a storm,” said Tim Harger, executive director at the Lightning Protection Institute, which provides resources for the design, installation, and inspection of lightning protection systems. “Lightning protection systems play a crucial role in safeguarding homes, businesses, and communities from the potential downtime and destruction caused by lightning strikes.


Facts and Statistics: Lightning

Lightning Videos

The Dangers of Shoddy Lightning Protection System Installations

2024 Wildfires Expected to Be Up From Last Year, But Still Below Average

The 2024 U.S. wildfire season is expected to be more damaging than 2023 but below the historical average in terms of the number of fires and acres burned, according to AccuWeather.

AccuWeather’s wildfire team predicts fires across the country will burn between 4 and 6 million acres of land in 2024, below the historical average of around 7 million acres. Last year, U.S. wildfires in the United States burned 2,693,910 acres – the fewest acres burned since 1998, when around 1.3 million acres were scorched, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

“Stormy weather lingering over the Northwest into the latter part of spring will put a lid on both wildfires and the measures humans take to suppress the fire danger,” AccuWeather reported. “Prescribed burns may be put on hold in the Northwest during May and early June due to above-average precipitation.” 

California has been home to some of the worst fires in the United States over the past decade, but – thanks to a wet and stormy winter – AccuWeather says wildfires will likely be limited until later in the summer. 

At the same time, AccuWeather meteorologists said the Texas Panhandle and other nearby areas of the southern Plains face a high to extreme risk of significant fires in 2024.

“The largest fire so far this year was in Texas, where a rapidly spreading grassfire fueled by powerful winds scorched more than 1 million acres, left at least two people dead, and killed at least 7,000 head of cattle,” AccuWeather said.

The annual monsoon is a key factor affecting wildfires across the southwestern United States.

“Monsoon-induced thunderstorms can be a double-edged sword,” AccuWeather says. “Downpours and an uptick in humidity can help crews battle and contain wildfires, while lightning strikes can trigger new infernos.”

AccuWeather says the start of the monsoon season in 2024 is likely to be slow at first before picking up in July and August.

Learn More:

Triple-I “State of the Risk” Issues Brief: Wildfire

Triple-I “Trends and Insights” Issues Brief: California’s Risk Crisis

Despite High-Profile Events, U.S. Wildfire Severity, Frequency Have Been Declining

Assess, Measure, Mitigate Your Lightning Risk

By Kelley Collins, Director of Business Development and Communications, Lightning Protection Institute

Our lives are filled with risk assessment and mitigation. From grabbing an umbrella for a rainy day to stocking up on supplies for an impending natural disaster, we assess and measure the potential risks before an event occurs to be prepared and protect ourselves from unwanted consequences.

For many, however, assessing and mitigating lighting risk isn’t necessarily top of mind. We know lightning is going to strike – more than 31 million cloud-to-ground strikes occur annually. But being personally affected seems so unlikely that people may think preparation isn’t necessary or even possible. Understanding how to mitigate risks associated with lightning is essential to individuals and property owners.

Lightning strikes about 100 times every second. Incorporate assessment of lightning risk into our daily lives.

Impact of Lightning: Homes, Businesses, Critical Facilities

About 6,000 times a minute, there is a lightning strike that contains an electrical discharge hotter than the sun. One strike can cause immense damage that goes beyond fire. The damage to the electrical infrastructure and the electronics connected to that infrastructure can be destroyed – bringing communication, security and productivity to a halt. 

Convective storms – which are associated with thunder, lightning, and other weather changes – caused $38 billion in insured losses in the first half of 2023. 

“Assessing your risk to lightning before a storm enables homeowners and business owners to predict and mitigate their risks to losses due to a lightning strike,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. 

If any of the following structures are hit by lightning, there are consequences beyond the repairs from a fire. When there are surges and/or damages to the electrical system, here are just a few consequences that impact time, money, and – in the worst cases – can cost lives:

Homes: Costly repairs and equipment replacement (TVs, washer/dryer, computers);  

Businesses: Emails and communication stopped, production downtime and loss of revenue; and

Critical Facilities: Inability to meet the emergencies of individuals or the community. 

Lightning protection systems are scientifically proven to mitigate these risks. When properly installed, a lightning protection system makes a building resilient to the damage of lightning strike. These systems protect the structure, the electrical system, and the humans within the building.

Lightning risk assessment

From homeowners to design/build experts, learning how to measure and mitigate the risks of lightning is vital to the prevention of lightning damage. For personal safety, assess the current and future weather conditions; if you see lightning, get indoors. For protecting homes, buildings, and structures, there are a few ways to conduct an assessment to determine the risks of lightning. If the assessment determines that there are perceived risks of lightning, lightning protection systems can be installed to mitigate those risks.

Key assessment factors

The NFPA 780 standard for lightning protection is one option that offers a simple and complex approach to assessments. At the advanced level, an assessment involves a complex equation with several variables (ie., Nd= Ngx Aex C1 x10-6). At the very least, consider the key assessment factors within three general areas of a structure: 

  • External criteria
  • Structure, design, and use
  • Internal activity

External Criteria

When you first walk up to a building or structure, scan the surroundings and conduct a visual inspection. This involves identifying potential lightning strike paths, such as tall trees, antennas, or nearby structures. Evaluate the building’s height and design. Now, assess how that structure compares to other buildings or objects near it. 

  • Is it the tallest building? 
  • Is it situated on a hill or by itself?

If you are designing a new building, assess how that building will be incorporated into these surroundings to ensure proper consideration for making that building more sustainable to a lightning strike.

What is the propensity for lightning strikes in that city, county, or state? Different regions have varying levels of lightning activity, and this information is crucial in determining the necessary level of protection. Lightning frequency data can be obtained from local weather services or scientific experts, such as Vaisala, who collect data on lightning activity. 

Structure Design and Use

Evaluate the materials and use of the building.

  • What are the building materials: Glass, wood, brick, etc.? 
  • Does the design impact the propensity for a lightning strike: Taller points or roof attachments?
  • What is the use of the building: 
    • Does it contain hazardous or flammable objects?
    • Does it store valuable and/or historical objects?
    • Does it perform critical services?

Internal Activity

Identify people and activity on the inside of the structure. 

  • Are there many people inside this structure? 
  • What’s the likely panic level if a building evacuation is necessary? 
  • Can the people move quickly? For instance: In a nursing home or hospital, all occupants cannot quickly exit a building that was hit by lightning. In a large high-rise with large groups of occupants, a speedy exit may not be possible.

What is the building’s function? Identify the services that are being conducted in that building. If lightning hits the structure you are assessing, what happens to the people and services inside? Here are some key structures to protect in high-risk areas:

  • Data centers
  • Distribution centers
  • Schools and churches
  • Public works facilities
  • Critical facilities, such as fire, police, hospitals, emergency operation centers

Assessment leads to mitigation and protection. Having a general understanding of a lightning risk assessment enables all of us to make better choices. Individuals and homeowners can protect themselves and their homes. Design/build experts and facility managers can make choices to ensure their buildings are more resilient, sustainable, and safer with lightning protection systems.

Proper steps for a formal assessment and installation

If your general assessment leads you to question the structure’s vulnerability, the NFPA 780 guidelines specify that the formal assessment process should be carried out by qualified professionals who are knowledgeable about lightning protection systems. These professionals may include lightning protection system designers, engineers, or certified installers who have undergone specific training and have a comprehensive understanding of the guidelines. 

By following the lightning assessment process outlined by NFPA 780, property owners can ensure that their lightning protection systems are properly designed, installed, and maintained. Proper installation protects structures from the devastating effects of lightning strikes and promotes the safety of individuals inside.


Cost of Lightning-Caused Claims Soared Due to 2020’s U.S. Wildfires

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

For the fourth consecutive year, the number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased in 2020, even as the average value of those claims has more than doubled since 2017, according to Triple-I’s analysis of national insurance claims data. 

Lightning-related homeowners insurance claim costs nationally rose dramatically due to a series of lightning strikes across Northern California in 2020.  The average cost per lightning claim in California was $217,555 in 2020, while the national average for this type of claim was nearly $29,000.

Triple-I also found that:

  • More than $2 billion in lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims were paid out in 2020 to 71,000-plus policyholders
  • The average cost of a lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claim increased 141 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from $11,971 to $28,885) and 168 percent from 2017 to 2020 (from $10,781 to $28,885)
  • The average number of lightning-caused U.S. homeowners insurance claims decreased by nearly 7 percent between 2019 and 2020 (from 76,860 to 71,551)

The wildfires in California and elsewhere damaged homes which had to be either repaired or rebuilt with more expensive construction materials. The National Association of Home Builders reported that, between mid-April and mid-September 2020, lumber prices soared more than 170 percent nationwide, adding $16,148 to the price of a typical, new single-family home.

The August Complex Fire, started by lightning strikes in August 2020, was the largest in California’s history, as defined by acres burned, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). It spread across 1 million acres and impacted seven counties.

State-by-State Numbers

Florida – which has the most thunderstorms— remained the top state for lightning-caused homeowners insurance claims in 2020, with 6,756, followed by Georgia (4,686), Texas (4,675), and California (4,233).

Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Damage caused by lightning, which results in a fire, is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.  Some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike, which can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.

In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 20-26, the Triple-I and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a national organization that establishes standards for specifying and installing lightning protection systems and promotes lightning safety, encourage homeowners to install  lightning protection systems in their homes. 

“When we think of lightning safety, we should make a distinction between personal safety and property protection,” said Tim Harger, LPI’s Executive Director.  “Personal safety is what we do during a storm and the safest place in any lightning event is within a structure protected by a properly designed, inspected and certified lightning protection system,” he said.  “Installing lightning protection systems in our homes or businesses is an action we can take before a storm that can mitigate against property damage.”