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These States are Really Lightning Rods

nasa lightning map
This map show the places where lighting flashes the most. Regions with the highest density of flashes are colored red and the regions where lightning is less common are colored purple. (Image credit: NSSTC Lightning Team.)

Summer is not only hurricane season, but peak lightning season as well.

In the United States, Florida has electric weather that is unmatched by any other state. Of course, its neighbors in Dixie Alley are no strangers to rolling thunder and lightning strikes, either — nearly all of the five most lightning-prone states are in the Southeast.

Already in 2011, lighting has killed five people in the United States (29 people died from lighting strikes last year), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which kicks off its Lightning Safety Week today (June 20).

The Southeast's thunderstorms generate the region's awesome lighting (and killer tornadoes). Warm air from the Gulf of Mexico collides with cooler air from the west, creating deafening thunderstorms. Within the colliding air currents, electrical charges build up and often shoot towardthe Earth in the form of lightning.

Here are the states where that lightning hits the ground most often:

5 - South Carolina/Oklahoma: Each state has a yearly average of 14.6 strikes per square mile (one square mile is about 2.5 square kilometers.).South Carolina had an average of 451,841 strikes per year (1996 to 2008), and Oklahoma is hit by 1,017,989 strikes per year, according to data from Vaisala. Despite these states ranking in the top 5 for lightning strikes, they have not had any lightning-related deaths over the past two years. Over the past decade, South Carolina has been the deadlier state of the two, ranking 9th in the number of lightning deaths (12). In Oklahoma, lighting killed four people over the last decade.

4 - Alabama: As a yearly average, Alabama has 15.9 strikes per square mile and 824,171 strikes per year on average. Alabama is the sixth deadliest state for lighting, with 17 deaths in the past 10 years. In the past two years, lighting killed four people in the state, including three in 2010.

3- Mississippi: It sees an average of 18.0 strikes per square mile and 856,384 strikes per year on average.That state had one death in the past two years and is the 14th deadliest for lighting strikes, with 10 deaths in the past 10 years.

2 - Louisiana: 20.3 strikes per square mile and 942,128 strikes per year.Lightning in the state killed two people in the last two years. Louisiana is the 16th deadliest state for lighting, with nine deaths over the past 10 years.

1 - Florida: A whopping 25.3 strikes per square mileand 1.45 million lightning strikes each year, on average. The state is also the deadliest for lightning, with 62 deaths over the past 10 years. Florida's lightning shows are due to its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. These bodies of water provide the moisture needed for the state's notorious thunderstorms.

Live Science Staff
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