Dutch referee Bjoern Kuipers had pointed upward and blown his whistle in the fifth minute of the match, prompting players to sprint to the tunnel as torrential rain poured down and lightning flashed in the sky.
Some fans stayed in their seats and even danced in the downpour. The rain eventually began to ease and groundsmen were sent out to spike the field, allowing it to drain.
The match restarted 56 minutes later.
UEFA rules state that if play is postponed for the rest of the day, the players will have to come back to complete the remaining minutes on Saturday.
Shortly before kickoff, the French national anthem had been interrupted by a loud clap of thunder. About 49,000 rain-soaked Ukrainians then bellowed out their anthem.
The early exchanges in the match were cautious, with both sides losing control of a ball that was being held up in the pools of water that were already beginning to form.
Kuipers only needed a few minutes to decide that the players' safety, given the lightning, and the increasingly unplayable field made it impossible to continue.
As the teams waited for the decision, substitutes from the France team, including forward Hatem Ben Arfa and midfielder Yann M'Vila, tested out the playing surface. They dropped the ball on the ground to see how it would bounce, and hit low passes to see how much the puddles slowed the ball.
The players received a huge roar as they emerged from the tunnel moments after the decision to restart was announced.