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Winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning: which has better odds?

Someone has to win the money, right?
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2020, file photo, a rare lightning storm crackles over Mitchell's Cove in early morning in Santa Cruz, Calif.

As the Mega Millions jackpot rose to $750 million this week, many Americans may be pondering the odds of winning at this point. No player overcame the 302,575,350-to-1 odds of winning the lottery on Tuesday night, so the next drawing for the massive prize will be held on Friday night.

Some lottery players also have their fingers crossed for Saturday's $640 million Powerball prize.

After all, someone has to win the money, right?

Well, not so fast.

Compared to the Mega Millions' 302,575,350-to-1 winning odds, getting struck by lightning seems a near certainty.

According to the National Weather Service, a person has a 1-in-15,300 chance of getting struck by lightning in their lifetime, defined as an 80-year span. That makes your odds of getting struck by lightning nearly 20,000 times higher than hitting the winning numbers for this week's jackpot.

Data from the National Lightning Safety Council shows that an estimated 234 people are injured by lightning strikes each year. In 2020, 17 fatalities in the United States were attributed to lightning strikes, down from the average number of 26 deaths per year (based on estimations from 2010-2019 figures).

By those odds, you are equally likely to be struck by lightning on 250 different occasions as you are to nailing the right lottery numbers, Newsweek reported.

Here are the odds for some other incredibly improbable events that you are still more likely to experience before winning the lottery:

  • Yellowstone erupting: 1 in 730,000 in any given year, according to the USGS.
  • Being eaten by a shark: 1 in 3.7 million, according to CNBC. Whale Bone Mag adds that those numbers change to 1 in 7 million for Americans living in a landlocked state.
  • Being killed by a meteorite: 1 in 700,000, according to astronomer Alan Harris in Discover Magazine. Those odds are considerably lower for getting struck directly by a meteor, however, dropping to 1-in-1.9 million should a meteor hit Earth.
  • Death by vending machine: 1 in 112 million, according to "The Book of Odds" by Amram Shapiro. According to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, an average of four Americans died per year, between 2002 and 2015, due to vending machine mishaps.

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