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 ~ National Lightning Safety Institute ~

Section 3.2

Lightning Costs and Losses from Attributed Sources

Compiled in April 2008 by the National Lightning Safety Institute

Accurate information about lightning-caused damage is elusive. However, our research suggests realistic U.S. lightning costs and losses may exceed $5 to $6 billion per year. Only sporadic reporting of costs in other countries is available. Verifiable topical sources that discuss lightning consequences include:


1.1 Forest fires - The period 2000-2006 showed 12,000 wild land fires started by lightning per year. This amounts to an average of 5.2 million acres annually. Source: National Interagency Fire Center, 2007.

1.2 Fires to structures - 18% of all lumberyard fires and 30% of all church fires are lightning-related. Source: Ohio Insurance Institute, Columbus OH.

1.3 During 2002-2004 U.S. fire departments responded annually to about 31,000 fires caused by lightning with $213,000,000 in direct property damages. Source: NFPA Report, January 2008.


2.1 Homeowner paid claims only (which do not include policy deductible amounts) are as follows for 2008: The number of paid insurance claims was 246,200. Insured losses were $1.065 billion. The average cost per claim was $4,324. Source: Insurance Information Institute, NY, press release, 6/22/09.

2.2 Lightning is responsible for more than $5 billion in total insurance industry losses annually, according to Hartford Insurance Co. Source: TMCNet Newsletter, Sept 14, 2006.

2.3 On annual average, we pay out about 3% to 4% of our claims as a result of lightning. Source: Factory Mutual Companies.


3.1 Looking specifically at storage and processing activities, lightning accounts for 61% of the accidents initiated by natural events; in North America, 16 out of 20 accidents involving petroleum products storage tanks were due to lightning strikes. Source: Journal of Hazardous Materials 40 (1995) 43-54

3.2 A lightning-caused explosion at the Naval Air Rocket Test Station (Lake Denmark NJ, 1926) cost $70 million with 13 people killed. Source: P. Viemeister, "The Lightning Book"

3.3 Thirty percent of U.S. businesses suffer damage from lightning storms. Source: Carnegie Mellon Report, 02/06.


4.1 Some 30% of all power outages annually are lightning-related, on average, with total costs approaching $1 billion dollars. Source: Ralph Bernstein, EPRI; Diels, et al (1997)

4.2 The safety feature activations of the digital and I&C equipment at utility company nuclear power plants were initiated by lightning in 19% of the cases. Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NUREG/CR-6579.

4.3 Our database shows 145 lightning events to privately owned nuclear power plants in the period 1985-2000. Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Report March 2001.


5.1 U.S. - Plant loss in Texas $420,000,000; plant loss in Oklahoma $52,000,000; plant loss in Virginia $52,000,000; plant loss in Louisiana $10,000,000; another plant loss in Texas $10,000,000.

5.2 Non-U.S. - Plant loss in Mazeikiu, Lithuania $150,000,000; plant loss in Sicily, Italy $133,000,000; plant loss in Johor Port, Malaysia $25,000,000; plant loss in Ontario, Canada $17,000,000; plant loss in Queensland, Australia $14,000,000; plant loss in Vienna, Austria $12,000,000.


The following examples were taken from Google searches:

6.1 South African South Deep JV mine lost 1 month production due to lightning and flooding (2005).

6.2 Porgera JV mine in Papua New Guinea had a severe lightning strike shutting down 50% of electrical power for more than three months at a production loss of $750,000/day (2006).

6.3 An Australian nickel mine manager was struck by lightning and killed (2001).

6.4 A Tennessee smelter pot line is “frozen” by a lightning-induced electrical outage. 164 pots have to be dug out by hand. Production is shut down for seven weeks (2007).

6.5 Twelve miners killed by lightning-caused methane gas explosion (West Virginia, 2005) .


7.1 If the theory of global warming is correct, “we could see double or triple, even more, in the number of lightning strikes by mid-century.” Source: Dr. Martin Uman, Univ. of Florida Lightning Research Center, quoted in article in New York Times, Sept. 9, 2001.

7.2 Chinese scientists have warned that global warming is likely to intensify extreme weather patterns, and severe storms in recent years may be a prelude to this. Source: China Meteorological Administration, July 30, 2007.


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