Lightning deaths have been in decline in the United States for decades. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports lightning deaths of more than 400 per year in the 1940s and 1950s but fewer than 30 per year over the past two decades. Obviously, this is not because of fewer thunderstorms. It is not because of Doppler radar and better storm warnings, either.
Severe thunderstorm warnings are not issued for heavy lightning. Actually, most lightning deaths do not occur when a thunderstorm is raging. People go inside for that. Most lightning deaths come from that first strike as a storm is approaching or from a rogue strike after a storm has passed.
The reason lightning deaths continue to decline is the increase in awareness and education. Meteorologists have preached lightning safety and people have heard. Let’s continue the trend. If you see lightning or hear thunder, go inside.
Meteorologist John Wheeler