DENVER (CBS4) – Each year there are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strikes in the United States, with most strikes occurring in the southeast United States.

While Colorado is no stranger to lightning, we don’t rank as high as one might think, coming in at 26 out of the 50 U.S. states.

Average U.S. cloud-to-ground lightning flash density. (credit: Vaisala)

Average U.S. cloud-to-ground lightning flash density. (credit: Vaisala)

The 30-year average for lightning fatalities in the United States is 52. Over the past 10 years, the average has been 35.

In 2013, there were 28 people killed by lightning in our country.

As a general rule, lightning victims are almost always outside when struck, 80 percent are male, 20 percent are under a tree and 20 percent are on or near water.


Over the past 20 years, on average, there have been three lightning deaths and 15 injuries each year in Colorado.

Lightning can strike anywhere in the state, but there seems to be three hot spots for strikes that result in fatalities or injuries.

The Colorado Springs metro area in El Paso County ranks No. 1. Since 1980, there have been 10 people killed and 64 injured in that region.

Jefferson County is close behind with eight fatalities and 36 injuries since 1980. There have been seven fatalities and 53 injuries in Larimer County since 1980.


Because lightning typically only affects one or two victims at a time, and does not leave behind vast destruction like a tornado, it usually receives less attention.

While lightning is associated with thunderstorms, one does not have to be directly underneath or in the path of a storm to be struck. In fact, lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from the area of rain inside a thunderstorm.

A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can hear thunder, you could be at risk.

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur during the afternoon and evening hours because that is when most people tend to be outside during stormy weather.

The National Weather Service says the chance that you will be struck by lightning is about one in 700,000 for each year of your life. However, your chance of being struck also depends on whether you consistently practice lightning safety rules.

Each day this week, we will talk in depth about different aspects of lightning and safety, from outdoors to indoors. We’ll also explore lightning and wildfire as well as lightning and medical issues for survivors of a strike.


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