Do hurricanes always hit at night?

photo credit to Gerald Herbert/AP photo/picture alliance
photo credit to Gerald Herbert/AP photo/picture alliance

Last year’s Hurricane Laura, slamming into the Lake Charles area at 1am, prompted the following viewer question:

You have probably answered this before but I want to know why hurricanes always seem to hit at night!!! Is it just a fluke or is there a scientific reason. It’s so much scarier at night!! Thanks, Debbie

After all, Laura landed in Cuba at 8pm. And earlier this week, Hurricane Nicholas moved ashore at Sargent right around midnight which prompted more questions about night-falling storms. Nicholas struck on the anniversary of 2008′s Hurricane Ike which came in at 2:10am. As a side note, Nicholas was the first hurricane to hit southeast Texas since Ike....although we’ve certainly had our spring floods and tropical storms.

But you can see from the above photo when Hurricane IDA hit that there is daylight and IDA actually made landfall in Louisiana around noon, on the same day as 2005′s Katrina which made landfall around 6am. You might recall though that Ida’s leftover devastating floods in New Jersey and New York came in at night. More on that below.

This year we’ve had Elsa hit Cuba at 2 p.m. on July 5 and then Florida on July 7 at 8 a.m. On the other hand, Grace went into Tulum at 4:45 a.m. (8/19) and then Veracruz at 1 a.m. on 8/21. Hurricane Henri went into Rhode Island as a tropical storm at 12:15 p.m. on 8/22. So if you tally those up, it’s about even for daytime and nighttime.

Our sister station in Orlando compiled this list of a few Day and Night falling hurricanes from the last few years:

2020 season:

Hanna(1): 6 p.m. (DAY)

Isaias(1) 11:10p.m. (NIGHT)

2019 season:

Barry(1) 11a.m. (DAY)

Dorian(5) 12:40 p.m.(DAY)

2018 season:

Florence(1): 7:15a.m. (DAY)

Michael(5): 12:30 p.m. (DAY)

2017 season:

Harvey(4): 11 p.m. (NIGHT)

Irma: Keys(4) 9:10a.m./Marco Island(3) 3:35 p.m. (DAY)

Nate(1) 8 p.m. (DAY)

But something DOES happen at night!

When the sun goes down and the air cools, the warm air of the hurricane rises and releases even more energy. That energy does create stronger winds and bigger storms and so at nighttime a hurricane usually does get stronger. Thus, Ida slammed the northeast at night with torrential rains and even Nicholas beefed up to a Category 1 hurricane at night. So Debbie is absolutely right: it IS scarier at night!

Have a great weekend, both day and night, and keep watching for next week’s fall front!

Frank

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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.