Do you have Wi-Fi problems on stormy days? Here’s the scoop on what kind of weather is most likely to cause an internet outage and how you can prepare for storm-related outages.
How Does Weather Affect Internet Service?
Stormy weather and internet
When the weather is wild and your Wi-Fi signal goes out, it’s easy to blame it on the weather. But will a cloudy day or a light rainstorm really interfere with your internet? Yes, it can. Although it depends on what kind of internet you have and whether the weather is bad enough to scramble signals. Satellite reception problems, in particular, are often correlated with bad weather.
Technically, bad weather doesn’t make your home Wi-Fi network less reliable (it’s not raining inside your house, right?). But it could make the internet signal delivered to your home weaker or cut out altogether, which will be reflected in bad Wi-Fi during a storm.
If you’re out and about during a rainstorm, you might also notice that Wi-Fi hotspots around a city may weaken during storms.
In most cases, light rain or a soft winter snowfall will not significantly affect your internet. Sometimes, slow internet on stormy days is caused by higher internet traffic than usual rather than the weather itself. Admit it—when the weather is bad, you don’t want to go running outside, play ball, or go clubbing. You want to stay home and cuddle up on the couch. You’re at home bingeing Schitt’s Creek, and so are most of your neighbors. That can cause serious internet slowing.
But there are times when weather can cause internet problems. Satellite internet, TV, and cell phone signals can go down during heavy rainstorms. Sometimes other atmospheric events can also cause a spotty internet connection. And, of course, if you’re in the middle of a severe weather event like a hurricane, a tornado, or a blizzard, weather could definitely affect your internet connection.
If it’s stormy outside and your internet is spotty, try the following:
- Minimize the number of devices connected to the internet.
- Move closer to your modem/router.
- Power cycle your modem by turning it off for one minute and then turning it back on.
- Occasionally, storms can cause high humidity inside your house, which can weaken indoor Wi-Fi signals. If you live in a humid area and get a lot of rain storms, a dehumidifier might help.
- Contact Viasat or HughesNet for more help.
How to prepare for storm-related outages
If your internet provider has an app, download it before storms so that you can access your account and learn about the status of outages from your phone. You can also get a battery backup so that you can still get internet even if the power goes out.
Some large providers like Xfinity and Spectrum operate free Wi-Fi hotspot networks for their customers. If your internet goes out during a severe weather event because you lost power, these hotspot networks can deliver essential communication. They can also be helpful if internet service is down in your area but available nearby. After the storm has passed, you can drive to a nearby hotspot to let friends and family know you are safe.
An extreme weather event occurs when the weather is extraordinary enough that life and property are threatened. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, floods, ice storms, and extreme windstorms are examples of extreme weather events that can knock out the internet in your area. During extreme weather, internet service can be interrupted for days.
Bad weather can cause internet outages in several ways: the weather event can interfere with the signal (such as heavy rain preventing a steady satellite signal from reaching your home), or it can cause infrastructure failures that cause internet outages (such as cable lines cracking during a prolonged freeze). In the case of satellite internet, bad weather can also damage your outdoor satellite equipment.
Rain is the bad boy here. Snow, fog, and hail don’t cause as much internet signal loss as rain.12 Why? It’s about density. Raindrops are up to eight times denser than snow and thus create more signal attenuation. Rain can also interfere with cell phone and satellite TV signals.
Not all rainstorms are alike. The bigger the raindrops are—and the faster they’re falling—the higher the chance of the storm causing an internet outage.
Weather and satellite internet
Satellite internet service is more likely to have connection issues during bad weather than other types of internet, since data has to travel through the air (rather than through wires buried underground). If you trace the path that data travels, you’ll see a line going from your home to a satellite thousands of miles away and then back to Earth to a ground station. Then, the signal turns around and travels back to you the same way. During this journey, bad weather can weaken, block, or deflect the satellite signal.
Satellite signals are transmitted via radio waves, which travel best through open air but can get deflected or dispersed when they pass through water, buildings, and heavy foliage. This is why satellite signals weaken during weather conditions like rain, snow, and even dust storms. The water or dust particles in the air deflect and break apart the radio signal, resulting in a spotty or weak signal.
Raindrops have the biggest effect on radio waves since water in its liquid form is the densest (and most difficult for radio waves to travel through).12 But fog, snow, and even hot, humid weather can interfere or weaken your signal. Trees and foliage are high in moisture content and can also block or weaken a satellite signal.
Another reason satellite internet is prone to outages during bad weather is because satellite internet equipment is mounted outdoors. Although highly weather resistant to most types of storms, satellite dishes can be damaged during extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, which can damage the equipment or push it out of alignment.
How weather affects HughesNet and Viasat satellite internet service
Currently, there are two residential satellite internet providers to choose from in the United States: Viasat and HughesNet. Although both these satellite internet providers operate over Ka-band wavelengths, they differ somewhat on what they tell their customers to expect during bad weather.8, 9
- HughesNet states that heavy cloud cover, storms, or even weather events at other locations (where your ground hub is located) can cause an internet outage.1
- Viasat, on the other hand, states that internet service usually won’t be interrupted by cloud cover, light rain, or snow. Viasat does inform customers that severe storms can cause a temporary loss of service.2
Weather and other types of internet
Although satellite internet is the most likely type of internet to go down in bad weather, any type of internet can be affected by weather conditions. Cable, fiber, fixed-wireless, and DSL internet outages can occur anywhere during severe weather conditions or even due to construction.
But while satellite internet signal loss is more likely to occur due to rain or other weather conditions interfering with the signal itself, other types of internet outages usually happen because of equipment and infrastructure failure during storms.
Snow storms can freeze and crack cables, or lines can accidentally get cut during construction or landscaping. Thunderstorms can knock out power lines, phone lines, and servers. All of these issues can wipe out internet service.3,4,5 Luckily, these events are rare, but they still cause internet outages occasionally.
For instance, in Kansas City, Google Fiber service went out during the winter of 2019 for more than two weeks due to a snowstorm that dropped up to 12 inches of snow in two days.3
Additionally, at the beginning of the 2020 school year, the Google Fiber network in Austin, Texas, became overloaded and interrupted remote learning.4 And in Denver, 10,000 Xfinity customers were without internet for days.5 If your internet does go out, having your internet company’s app installed on your phone will be helpful. Apps are the primary way that internet service providers keep customers informed about outages and progress being made to restore service. You can also use apps to find Wi-Fi hotspots around your city.
Fixed wireless internet is not as affected by weather as satellite internet because wireless operates on much lower frequencies than satellite.6 However, fixed wireless service may slow down during storms because of congestion or go out completely if the power goes out.
Why weather affects satellite internet more than mobile signals
Like internet signals, mobile phone signals and public Wi-Fi hotspots around a city can also weaken during bad weather. This is because cell phone signals are also transmitted via radio waves, and radio waves just aren’t as steady and reliable when they’re traveling through water in the atmosphere.
Precipitation of any type—rain, snow, or sleet—can weaken cell phone signals and public Wi-Fi hotspots. But, there’s a much smaller chance for interference because a cell phone signal travels five or ten miles to the nearest cell phone tower while satellite internet signals travel over 60,000 miles. Think of all the water droplets a radio wave could encounter in 60,000 miles! So, satellite signals are just more likely to encounter bad weather than mobile phone signals.
Fixed wireless internet and 4G LTE home internet also operate on radio waves. But since signals don’t travel very far (10 miles at most), they are also much less likely to experience interference from weather than satellite internet service is.
Can weather affect Wi-Fi?
Yes, weather can affect Wi-Fi, particularly heavy rainstorms. Stormy weather can weaken free Wi-Fi hotspots around your city, and bad weather can also indirectly cause your home Wi-Fi network to go down.
In general, weather doesn’t affect the strength of the Wi-Fi signal from your router to your device (barring some slight interference during high humidity). But outside weather could affect the internet service that your Wi-Fi network relies on. For example, if your satellite internet signal goes out during a thunderstorm, your home Wi-Fi network will also fail.
Will I lose my internet connection during a power outage?
Yes, you will probably lose your internet during a power outage unless you have backup power. Power outages are the most common causes of internet outages during storms, followed by rain. Your laptop might be fully charged and have battery juice for hours, but most modems don't have a battery backup. Plugging your computer directly into the modem with an Ethernet cable wouldn’t solve the problem either. If you have a generator or power bank, you could plug your router into that to maintain your signal.
Does satellite internet work in bad weather?
Satellite internet usually works in bad weather but not always. A lot of people experience signal loss during heavy rainstorms. Some types of weather can damage outdoor satellite equipment or move the dish out of position (such as hurricane force winds, tornadoes, hail storms, and heavy blizzards). Snow can also accumulate on your dish and disrupt service. You can brush snow carefully off your dish, but don’t try chipping away at ice because this can move the dish out of alignment.
What should I do if my satellite dish gets damaged during a storm?
If your satellite dish gets damaged during a storm, call your satellite internet service provider. Don’t try to fix the problem yourself. You can call HughesNet or call Viasat customer service, depending on who you get your satellite service from. Be aware that satellite equipment damage due to severe weather (such as hurricanes or tornadoes) is usually not covered under your internet company’s warranty.
Why does rain interfere with my satellite TV signal?
Rain can interfere with satellite TV signals because of the way the signal is transmitted. Satellite TV signals are broadcast through the air as radio waves in the Ku-band frequency, and like Ka-band (which delivers satellite internet signals), the Ku-band is susceptible to dispersion by water.7 You can find out more about satellite TV on our Best Satellite TV page.
How do I report an internet outage?
If you’re experiencing an internet outage, first contact your internet service provider by phone. You can also report an outage to DownDetector, which can give you additional information about how widespread the issue is.
- HughesNet Support, “How Does Weather Affect My HughesNet Internet Service?,” Accessed September 21, 2020.
- Viasat, “Is Viasat Affected by Weather?,” Accessed September 22, 2020.
- Schoon, Ben, “Kansas City Snowstorm Takes Down Google Fiber, Some Customers without Internet for Over Two Weeks,” January 2019. Accessed September 22, 2020.
- Knight, Drew, “Google Fiber Outages Reported Across Austin as Some Try to Teach Remotely,” September 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
- Sylte, Allison, “10,000 Metro Denver Comcast Customers without Service, Restoration Estimated for 10 p.m.,” April 2020. Accessed September 21, 2020.
- Fink, Jamie, “Introduction to Fixed Wireless — Debunking the Myths: Fact vs. Fiction,” January 2018. Accessed September 23, 2020.
- DISH, “Learn Why DISH Has 99% Signal Reliability,” Accessed September 23, 2020.
- Viasat, “More Bandwidth and Throughput to Satisfy Every Customer.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
- Alaska Satellite Internet, “Gen5 Residential.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
- Satellite Today, “Cover Story: Rain Degradation: Its Implications For Satellite Communication.” Accessed September 28, 2020.
- Advances in Science and Technology Research Journal, “Effects of Rain Attenuation on Satellite Communication Link.” Accessed September 29, 2020.
- Satellite Airtime Billing, “Finding the Best Solution to Reduce Satellite Rain Fade (Rain Attenuation),” March 2020. Accessed September 29, 2020.