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Another TV Fried as Georgia Leads U.S. in Lightning Costs

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June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Georgia tops a shocking list: most likely place to have property damaged by lightning.

Georgia residents were reimbursed for $56 million of lightning-related damage in homes last year tied to more than 11,000 claims, according to a top-10 list from the Insurance Information Institute. Texas ranked second at $54.2 million.

Once lightning is “in the wiring, it’s electrifying anything connected to that,” John Jensenius, a lightning-safety specialist at the National Weather Service, said today in a phone interview. “Televisions, and even things like microwaves, they all have little chips in them so they all can get fried pretty easily.”

Lightning cost insurers $5,869 per claim in the U.S. last year, more than double the average in 2004, as homeowners added electronics such as computers and high-definition televisions. Still, the total expense for the industry declined 8.4 percent nationwide in that span, to $673.5 million in 2013, because better lightning-protection systems and fewer storms decreased the frequency of claims, the industry group said.

Warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean make states in the U.S. Southeast more prone to thunderstorms, Jensenius said. North Carolina had the third-most claims, and Louisiana ranked fourth. The storms are most frequent in the U.S. in the spring and summer months, and this week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Homeowners are advised to unplug equipment before a storm hits. Once a storm is under way, handling plugs can risk electrocution, Jensenius said.

Golf, Motorcycles

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home insurer, says people should seek shelter in a building or metal-topped car during storm. They should avoid lakes, golf carts, farm equipment, motorcycles and bicycles and never seek shelter under a tree.

The insurer, which is owned by its policyholders, released its own list today, ranking all states by the number of claims, with New York ranked 20th and New Jersey 26th. Georgia and Texas also topped the State Farm list, with Rhode Island and Alaska having the fewest claims.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kelly Gilblom in New York at kgilblom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net Peter Eichenbaum