Death by lightning strike may seem rare, but lightning has killed nearly three times as many people this year as tornadoes have, the National Weather Service (NWS) reports.
As of today (Sept. 12), 35 people have died from lightning strikes in the United States this year, the NWS said. In contrast, 12 people have died from tornadoes in 2016, the NWS reported.
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"This year does seem to be unusually high," said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. "That's because the totals ... have been in the 20s for quite a number of years now, since 2009." [Images of Lightning Unfolding, Frame by Frame]
Partly to blame may be lack of awareness about lightning's dangers and, as such, people's riskier behaviors during such storms, Jensenius said.
From 2010 to 2015, there were between 23 and 29 lightning-related deaths per year in the country. In 2009, that number reached 34, Jensenius said.
Coincidentally, 2009 is also the last year that lightning deaths surpassed annual deaths from tornadoes, which led to 21 fatalities that year.
Tornado-related casualties vary widely depending on whether tornadoes hit populated areas. For instance, there were between 36 and 70 tornado deaths between 2012 and 2015, but 553 deaths in 2011, when a tornado struck populated Joplin, Mo., and a so-called "super-outbreak" of tornados hit the South, Midwest and Northeast, Live Science reported. In fact, 2011 was the deadliest year for tornado deaths in the country, according to NWS records dating back to 1940.