Lightning damage is the most striking in Texas, at least for the insurance industry.
The average claim in the state was $10,671 last year, the Insurance Information Institute said in a statement Monday. That’s the highest figure among the 10 states with the most claims, and 44 percent more than the national average.
Texas has higher incomes than most other states in the U.S. South, the region with the greatest frequency of strikes. And some of the state’s larger homes are on hills, putting the structures at increased risk along with computers, televisions and other electronic devices that can be zapped inside.
“Dallas-Fort Worth is the largest city in the Thunderstorm belt of the U.S.,” Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, said in a phone interview. “When you have damage to a heavily developed area, the costs of insurance claims are going to be higher.”
Total insured losses from lightning in the country increased 9.7 percent from 2013 to $739 million, the institute said. The average claim amount in the U.S. rose 26 percent to $7,400 and has been climbing for years amid increased use of expensive electronics.
The number of claims has been falling, partly because of increased use of lightning-protection systems, the institute said. Dry weather in the U.S. West also contributed to recent declines. There were about 99,900 claims last year, compared with 114,740 in 2013 and more than 200,000 in 2010.
Florida had the largest number of claims in 2014, followed by Georgia and then Texas. Moisture from the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico can contribute to storms, especially in warm months like June, July and August.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the largest U.S. home insurer, advises people to avoid lakes or beaches during lighting storms and to never seek shelter under a tree. It’s safer to be in a car with a metal top or a building, where people should stay away from windows and electric appliances.
Affluent families in the Austin, Texas, area often live on hills, and in taller structures, putting them first in lightning’s path, Preston Jacobi, battalion chief at Lake Travis Fire Rescue, said in an interview. And they aren’t always properly protected, he said.
“Maybe it’s a cosmetic issue, because they think a set of lightning rods is unsightly, makes their homes look like the Addams Family with spikes on their roof,” Jacobi said, referring to the spooky residence of fictional characters created by Charles Addams. “I’m more of function-over-fashion sort of person. I’d rather have an ugly lightning rod than watch my roof burn off.”