On June 10, 1752, a 46-year-old man managed to demonstrate the connection between lightning and electricity by flying a kite in a thunderstorm. This man was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. You can read more about his fascinating experiment here.
So this bring us to the question: Can you fly a kite in the rain? Yes, you can fly a kite in the rain, as long as there is some wind to keep your kite in the air. However, there are mitigating factors that contribute towards your enjoyment and safety if you choose to fly a kite in the rain.
To be honest, flying a kite in the rain sounded dangerous to me when I was much younger. I could slip and fall running with a kite, lose my kite due to strong winds, have my kite damaged, fall sick due to being in the rain, or more commonly mentioned by my parents: get electrocuted if it was a thunderstorm.
As previously mentioned, to fly a kite, regardless of the weather, all you need is some wind. Be sure to read on to see how you can enjoy kite flying in the rain in a safe manner!
Things to Consider Before Flying a Kite in the Rain
If you are looking to venture out in the rain to get your kite flying fix, make sure you at least are wearing a raincoat or poncho to keep most of the rain off you.
One major warning that you will always come across when asking about flying a kite in the rain is to beware of how easily your kite can become a conductor of electricity either by way of lightning strikes, or your kite flying into above-ground power lines.
Modern kite strings are usually made from hemp, cotton, nylon, or silk. While these are non-conductive, they are not insulators and when wet, can conduct electricity easily. Your kite may also be made out of conductive material such as carbon fibre, or Mylar, both of which are excellent conductors of electricity, so keep this in mind when reading the below sections. To jump to a specific question, click on the links below:
How much rainfall is there?
I dread going out in the rain. It may be because I grew up near the equator, which meant that when it rained, it would usually be steamy after due to the high humidity in the air. It meant that I would be hot, sweaty, and sticky (or cold and clammy, depending on the ambient temperature) if I even ventured outside for 30 minutes.
Your perception of rain probably depends on the area where you live. If you are used to rain, you might just think, “Oh, it’s just rain…again.” However, if you live in a coastal area that experiences frequent tropical storms, or even in areas that have very little drainage solutions, you would be no stranger to flooding. You might find rain relaxing, or you could experience stressful driving conditions. There are various dangers of rain; some may seem obvious to most, while others won’t notice these dangers until an accident strikes.
Again, flying a kite in rain is not a problem, as long as there is some wind to keep your kite in the sky. Keep in mind that your kite will get wetter the longer you fly in the rain, which will weigh your kite down, and can cause damage to it. It will also require more wind to keep your kite afloat in the sky.
Flying a kite in heavier rain and stronger winds can be difficult even for the experienced kite flyer. Overly-strong winds can blow your kite – and you – away if you’re not careful!
Heavy rain and strong winds can also chill you to the bone – especially if you get soaked – and in turn cause you to fall sick. If you do choose to go out in the rain to fly a kite, make sure you’re properly attired against rain – something warm underneath something that is waterproof.
Rain can also bring other dangers which will affect kite flying. I’ve listed the most common ones down below. In such instances, do not go outdoors if possible, and contact your local police, or local disaster management group for more information.
Storms can dump a mass of rainwater over land, which can cause inland flooding. Walking in floodwater, even if it is just 6 inches (15 centimetres) deep, could cause accidents like drowning. Downed power / telephone lines can cause electric shock, cause power and telecommunications outages. Driving through flood waters is not a smart idea either, as vehicles can be swept away in as little as 24 inches (60 centimetres).
More car accidents happen in wet weather – and it doesn’t even need to be a severe storm. Rainfall can reduce the range of your vision, making it hard to see other drivers on the road. Driving too fast on wet, slick roads or following too closely behind another vehicle often can cause accidents as it takes longer for you and your car to adjust to the wet roads, or to react to the car in front of you suddenly braking. The slickness of the road can also cause cars to skid. Driving through the water that collects toward the sides of roads could cause you to hydroplane or slide off the road completely.
Mudslides / Landslides
Landslides occur when masses of rock, earth, or debris move down a slope. Mudslides are a common type of fast-moving landslide that have more debris such as rocks, earth, detritus, or trash, that tends to flow in channels.
Landslides can accompany heavy rains or follow droughts, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. Landslides are typically associated with periods of heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt and tend to worsen the effects of flooding.
Mudslides develop when water rapidly accumulates in the ground and results in a surge of water-saturated rock, earth, and debris. Mudslides usually start on steep slopes and can be activated by natural disasters.
In both disasters, areas where wildfires or human modification of the land have destroyed vegetation on slopes are particularly vulnerable during and after heavy rains. Speeds of 20 mph are not uncommon, and even speeds up to 100 mph are possible. Homes in the path of either mudslides or landslides can potentially be flattened, and anyone inhabiting the home could be injured.
To a lesser extent, kite flying can be affected by acid rain by eroding the material used to make your kite over time. It can also be detrimental for your health if you are exposed to it for prolonged periods.
When emissions from burning fossil fuels (i.e. sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) react with water in the atmosphere, acidic precipitation falls usually as rain. This can have a negative impact on various plants, animals and even man-made structures.
What kind of storm is it?
There are several types of storms that can occur throughout the year. Below is a list of the most common types of storms. These storms usually will cause damage to property and life if severe enough.
We strongly recommend that you do not go out, much less fly a kite, in such adverse weather. Instead, if you know that a storm is coming, you should be preparing for it. For more information on how best to do that, contact your local disaster management group.
Thunderstorms are probably the most common type of storm that most people have either experienced or know of. Thunderstorms also cause a wide range of weather phenomenons such as hail, tornadoes, and flooding.
There are also dry thunderstorms that produce thunder and lightning, but most of its precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground. They occur in dry conditions, and their lightning is a major cause of wildfires. So even if it’s dry out, you should always check the National Weather Service or your local weather service for any forecasts before heading out.
One of the major concerns about flying a kite in thunderstorms is the occurrence of lightning. A typical cloud-to-ground lightning bolt begins when a step-like series of negative charges, called a stepped leader, races downward from the bottom of a storm cloud toward the Earth along a channel. Each of these segments is about 150 feet (46 meters) long.
When the lowermost step comes within 150 feet of a positively charged object, it is met by a climbing surge of positive electricity, which can rise up through a building, a tree, or even a person. When the two connect, an electrical current flows as negative charges fly down the channel towards earth and a visible flash of lightning streaks upward, transferring electricity as lightning in the process.
Lightning, while spectacular and breath-taking, is extremely dangerous. About 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning each year. As you can imagine, flying a kite during a thunderstorm only makes you more susceptible to a lightning strike.
Precipitation is the water that falls from the clouds towards the ground. We already know that with thunderstorms come rain, and sometimes heavy rain at that. However, there are other types of precipitation that can cause discomfort, or injury, if you choose to fly a kite during such storms.
We cover the following precipitation types: hail, snow, freezing ice in more detail here, and how it can affect your enjoyment and safety when flying a kite.
With hail, snow, and freezing ice, it can be dangerous to even be outside without shelter as either one can cause physical injury, or lower your body temperature till freezing. If hail, snow, or freezing ice is predicted for your area, we recommend that you stay indoors for your own safety.
2. Hurricanes / Tornadoes
Hurricanes and tornadoes are similar but not identical. Both produce powerful, swirling wind; both can leave a path of death and destruction in their wake. They also differ in crucial ways, including their size and duration as well as how, when, and where they form.
The biggest differences between hurricanes and tornadoes are how big they are and how long they last. Hurricanes are typically hundreds of miles in diameter, with high winds and heavy rains over the entire region. Hurricanes can last for days, or even weeks. Tornadoes are typically no more than a few hundred feet wide, and last no more than a few minutes.
If there is a hurricane or tornado warning for your area, immediately prepare yourself for it or take shelter. Do not attempt to go kite flying in such weather.
Hurricanes* form over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, near the equator and far from land. A hurricane typically starts as a wave of low-pressure air in the warm and humid atmosphere over the tropical ocean. The gathering storm draws in warm air and water vapor as it rises and grows. This forms thunderclouds that start to rotate in response to Earth’s rotation.
In the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes spin counter-clockwise and are typically driven roughly northwest by trade winds. In the Southern Hemisphere, these storms rotate clockwise.
Most hurricanes hit the U.S. in summer and early fall, when the Northern Hemisphere’s oceans are warmest. An average of 12 hurricanes will hit the U.S. along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast during a typical Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
The (sustained) wind speeds of a hurricane start from 74 miles per hour – enough to break tree branches and cause minor damage to structures. At such wind speeds, and depending on your kite, you may lose your kite. More importantly, you could be injured by flying debris.
*Hurricanes are called typhoons in Asia and the western Pacific, and cyclones in Australia and the Indian Ocean.
Tornadoes, or twisters, form over land during so-called supercell thunderstorms, which produce powerful updrafts of wind that twist as they rise.
Under certain conditions, the updrafts of a supercell will narrow to form a rapidly swirling funnel cloud (see image above for the menacing swirls). From there, it can grow rapidly into a tornado given the right conditions including the collision of warm, humid air and cold, dry air.
These weather conditions frequently occur between March and early June across what is commonly referred to as Tornado Alley: an area that spans parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Keep in mind though: tornadoes can form at any time of year and in any area with the right weather conditions.
Tornadoes produce gusts of wind that start from 65 miles per hour – again, enough to break tree branches and do minor damage to structures. This is unsafe weather to fly a kite in as you may get injured by flying debris.
3. Tropical Storms
A tropical storm is a storm that originates in the tropics and has sustained winds ranging between 39 and 73 miles per hour. Any higher than this, it would be classified as a hurricane. It is characterized by a low-pressure center, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that create strong winds and heavy rain.
As tropical storms are just below a hurricane in wind intensity, and can cause flooding, we advise that you do not go out in such weather, not even to fly a kite.
4. Derecho Storms
The word ‘derecho’ is derived from the Spanish word for ‘straight’ as in direction. A derecho storm is a widespread, long-lived (anywhere between a few hours to multiple days), and straight-lined wind storm. It is also associated with a rapid-moving group of severe thunderstorms and can potentially rival hurricanes and tornadoes.
Derechos move rapidly in the direction of movement of their associated storms, and winds remain sustained for a greater period of time (often increasing in strength after onset), and may exceed hurricane-force.
Wind damage is typically directed into one direction and can create vast damage along a relatively straight path. A warm-weather phenomenon, derechos occur mostly in summer, especially during June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere (or March, April, and May in the Southern Hemisphere). They generally affect states east of the Rocky Mountains. However, derechos may occur at any time of the year, and can occur as frequently at night as during the day.
With violent winds, being out in the open with no anchor to keep you to the ground can be very dangerous as such wind speeds can cause you to be blown away.
So yes, you can find a kite in the rain; keep in mind that safety should be your top priority when flying a kite. Learn to understand and read the different weather signs to have a safe and enjoyable time flying!