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Texas leads the nation in lightning strikes and here's why you should pay attention

Lightning strikes City Center Tower in downtown Fort Worth

A thunderstorm can produce thousands of strokes of lightning along its path.
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A thunderstorm can produce thousands of strokes of lightning along its path.

Spring thunderstorms have arrived in North Texas, and the most intense months for severe weather are just around the corner.

While tornadoes, hail and flooding are typically the three greatest concerns don't forget that other spring staple — lightning. And nationally, the top 10 dates for lightning are all in April, May, June and July, according to Vaisala, a company that measures lightning.

Texas is a breeding ground for lightning and has the numbers to prove it:

  • Texas led the nation with 3.3 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes in 2017.

  • From 2007-2016, Texas ranked second with the number of lightning-related fatalities with 21 , trailing only Florida, which had 51.. Florida had a greater density of lightning strikes.

  • Texas ranked second in 2016 with 9,098 lightning strike claims filed by State Farm customers with an average cost of $9,580 per claim.

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Vaisala compiled the density of lightning flashes across the United States. Vaisala

Since a single bolt of lightning can carry over 100 million volts of electricity, damage to homes can be extensive.

According to State Farm, a direct strike to a structure "can rip through roofs and chimneys, explode brick and concrete, and ignite fires." Meanwhile, a secondary lightning strike to a nearby tree or power line can induce unwanted surges into a home.

Lightning can also get inside a home through phone, cable lines, and computer modems. Weather vanes, antennas and satellite dishes are other entry points. And lightning can mess up wiring in irrigation systems, invisible fences, and electric gates.

"We recommend customers review their policy at least once a year to review coverage for your structure and contents, understanding your deductible and personal property coverage," said State Farm spokesman Chris Pilcic.

Vaisala and the National Weather Service also listed some other interesting lightning facts:

  • What are your odds of being struck in your lifetime? The National Weather Service places the odds at one in 13,500 — that's if you live to be 80 years old.
  • Why do we see lightning before we hear it? The speed of light travels faster than the speed of sound.
  • How hot is lightning? Hotter than the surface of the sun. Lighting has a temperature of about 53,000 degrees compared to 10,000 degrees on the surface of the sun.
  • How long does a a lightning flash last? They typically last less than a second but the longest ever recorded kept going for 7.7 seconds.
  • How far can it travel? Normally, it can go only about 20 miles horizontally but the longest distance a flash has been recorded traveling was 200 miles.
  • Commercial airlines are safe from a lightning strike — the current travels around the conducting metal exterior and dissipates into the air.

Learn how to be lightning aware by watching these tips from the National Weather Service

Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @fwhanna