LISBON- Authorities in the seven Portuguese islands, Azores have warned of hurricane Alex that was the first hurricane to form in January since 1938 and closed in on the North Atlantic islands on Friday morning.
Hurricane Alex toppled trees, cut power and flooded some homes in the Azores on Friday, yet the destruction was less than feared as the eye of the storm missed the archipelago by 20 km (12 miles).
Maximum sustained wind speeds were expected to reach 75mph, according to the US National Hurricane Centre, with gusts reaching 100mph according to the Associated Press news agency. However, in the event winds on the islands blew at 100-130 km an hour and waves rarely exceeded 10 metres.
No casualties were reported by authorities, as residents of Azores had reinforced doors and windows with plywood and sandbags on Friday. Schools and administrative buildings were closed.
“The zone of the hurricane with the strongest winds is over the sea,” said Nuno Moreira, meteorologist at the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute.
“So gusts are somewhat weaker than initially feared.”
Hurricanes usually form above warmer water in the June-November period. According to U.S. meteorologists, Alex is the first to have emerged in the Atlantic in January since 1938.
“The intensity of the hurricane itself is not likely to diminish for now, but as it starts to open distance from the archipelago, the forecast is for gusts to diminish gradually in the Azores in the coming hours,” Moreira said.
Alex is a “Category 1” hurricane, the weakest rating on the five-tier Saffir-Simpson scale. The storm is expected to head north towards Greenland before dissipating, yet its intensity is likely to decline.
The Azores, 1,500 km west of mainland Portugal, were last hit by hurricanes in 2012.