We lust for wind. Sometimes we get more than we can handle, mother nature is like that. When it happens things can get ugly, gear can get trashed and so can riders.
First some pictures ...
A shelf cloud in Holland. These clouds can bring sudden gusts, tornados, microburst, wind direction shifts and more irregular weather.
Another shelf cloud from a tropical depression in Cabarete, DR
A summer squall in the Bahamas bringing violent wind spikes, direction reversals followed by the shutting off of wind in general
A pretty fluffy cloud likely containing a supercell(s) with the capacity to throw out microbursts, tornados and high, violent wind gusts off Boca Raton, FL, USA at dusk.
LOTS of other variations out there, we are talking about an entire WORLD of weather, right? Get to know what goes on in your area.
So, what is the problem? Good useable winds, perhaps even on the lighter side, rigged big - right and suddenly, KA-POW, a very strong gust slams in! Say 15 kts. to 40 kts. or even 10 kts. to 50 kts. This can happen in many areas of the world. The force exerted by your kite can increase by SEVEN TO TWENTY-FIVE TIMES IN THESE GUST RANGES!!! Serious stuff, more power than we can safetly handle.
Hey, I've got a BOW kite, flat kite or Super-Depower C kite, I can handle it. Not if you don't react properly in time or if your system is poorly maintained or if it malfunctions or if after activation you STILL have too much kite area up. Kiteboarders using the newer designs in higher winds have been injured and even killed largely due to choosing to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Choose your kiting weather well and monitor it while you are out.
If something like this hits and you have a kite up it is UNCERTAIN how things will play out. You might be able to depower your kite and keep it. Your kite might be ripped away from you and threaten someone else downwind or simply get trashed on a powerline or building. Or, you might not be able to depower or unhook, LOTS HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO, and you are going for a ride. Possibly lofted high, long and fast or dragged, short, fast and hard. Either way, serious injury may happen and has already happened to other riders.
So how about an example? Take the storm system, nice white clouds, pretty almost. We had some of these moving down the coast here over the last two days.
This was in the sky and ...
The color radar showed the following:
Note the multicolored cells in the storm band to the north. The reds and darker colors indicate POWERFUL storm cells. The kind that can toss out gusts on the order of 35 to 50 kts. or even higher, in tornados that could be spawned.
Here is what the Weather Service had to say about conditions:
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
439 PM EST WED MAR 12 2003
...A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING CONTINUES FOR
NORTHEASTERN PALM BEACH COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA UNTIL 515 PM EST...
THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM IS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING...
HAIL UP TO THE SIZE OF QUARTERS...
DAMAGING WINDS GREATER THAN 60 MILES AN HOUR...
VERY HEAVY RAINFALL WHICH MAY CAUSE LOCALIZED FLOODING...
VERY FREQUENT AND DEADLY CLOUD-TO-GROUND LIGHTNING...
Time to rig up and go? Not if you aren't running for a Darwin Award.
Here are some wind graphs of past systems that typify these squalls:
DON'T CONCLUDE that these sort of squalls are confined to South Florida, THEY AREN'T. It seems most areas at some time or another have strong violent storm winds. Some areas, like South Florida, New Zealand, and probably LOTS of other areas have these not too uncommonly. I have tried to build a database of local unstable weather but folks have been reluctant to send in information unfortunately. It isn't TOO LATE to help out your fellow riders, for more info checkout:http://www.kiteforum.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=6551
Photos by Rick Iossi except as noted