Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Powerball Odds of Winning Compared to Extreme Weather Events

With the craze and possibilities of a one billion dollar plus lottery, its easy to get caught up in the chance of winning. The odds of winning (on one ticket) are close to 1 and 300,000,000. The following will examine and attempt to put this number in perspective, as it relates to extreme weather events. Some of the data/odds are calculated from dividing through the total population, while some will be more regional in terms of probability.

The Struck by Lightning Odds:

Certainly, struck by lightning is one of the more common methods in comparing lottery odds to a single event, but lets go deeper. The odds of being struck in one year are 1:1,190,000, so you would need to but 245 Powerball tickets of different numbers to have the same odds as being struck by lightning in a year. Or you could buy 10 tickets to have the same odds at winning a million dollars. The odds of being struck by lightning in a lifetime is: 1:12,000. You are around 2 times more likely to get struck by lightning twice in a lifetime than win the Powerball. So let's say you buy a Powerball ticket for every drawing in your life for 80 years, odds suggest you are only 3 times more likely to be hit by lightning. Not bad right? It would just cost you $16,640 to buy a ticket every drawing for 80 years, assuming you buy just one ticket. On a side note, the general population, along with improved technology has decreased lightning deaths from over 400 in 1940, to just over 20/year recently, so these odds continue to become more rare!

The Hit by a Tornado Odds:

Most tornado deaths occur from Strong to "Violent" tornadoes, which is defined by the national weather service as EF-3 or larger. This number makes up less than 10 percent of all tornadoes in a year. According to the National Cimatic Data Center most states in the Midwest average about one EF-3 to EF-5 tornado per 50,000 square miles (lowest values in Michigan, highest in Missouri and Kansas). With this data we can estimate the odds of a particular tornado striking your house. Let's say the average path length of a Strong to violent tornado is 5 miles long and a quarter mile wide. This brings the chance of one of these tornadoes hitting a certain point in the Midwest to: 1: 62,500. Now within this path, only a few houses will see the strongest of winds, about 5% of the affected area. This gives your house a 1:1,250,000 chance of getting hit by the violent and damaging tornado winds. This means you are 233 times more likely to get hit by a tornado, living in the Midwest, than win the Powerball.

The Odds of Dying in a Hail Storm:

While hailstones can reach the deadly size of softballs, or even larger, deaths by a hail storm are very uncommon. Large hail is formed when thunderstorm or supercell updrafts become very strong and have the ability to lift hail stones further into the atmosphere. They can then grow larger and larger with time before they are heavy enough to break through the updraft. Some of these smaller stones will get "flung" outside of the updraft and ahead of the larger hail. Luckily, this provides some lead time for the largest of hail, allowing people to seek shelter in time. The odds of getting killed by hail in United State is: 1:734,400,000. Meaning you are 2.5 times more likely to win the Powerball then die from lightning in a year. There have been some events where 9 People have Died in a powerful hail storm, but most have been outside the United States. Deaths have also decreased in the past few decades with advanced warning by the National Weather Service and more effective communication.

The Odds of your House Hit by a Meteor:

Here's an example where the Powerball is on your side. The odds of a meteor hitting you house are 1:182,138,880,000,000! Meaning you are 623,333 times more likely to win the Powerball with a single ticket than to see a meteor on your house. This means, you are MORE LIKELY to win the Powerball twice (if you buy 20 tickets) then to get hit by a meteor. Nice odds right?

Thanks for stopping in at Midwest Weather! We have a Facebook Page and Twitter

Works Cited
"How Dangerous Is Lightning?" NWS Lightning and Heat. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

"What Are the Odds Of Being Struck By Lightning?" DiscoverTheOddscom. 2012. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

"Scott Sabol's World of Weather." : Odds of Getting Struck by Lightning and Other Weather. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

"Some Probability Estimates." Violent Tornado Probability. Web. 12 Jan. 2016.

"Historic Winters Have Delighted, Frustrated and Imperiled - The Boston Globe." Web. 12 Jan. 2016.