Hurricane Lorenzo is bearing down on the Azores, due to hit various islands with winds of up to 200 km/ hour tomorrow (Wednesday).
Meteorological institute IPMA has issued a red alert, warning that the rainfall accompanying Lorenzo “could cause life-threatening flash flooding”.
Schools, creches, and day centres will be closed and the regional government is still considering whether to shut other public services.
Weather experts say the Category 2 hurricane (recently downgraded from Category 4) will then bowl on passing Portugal mainland – albeit continuing to lose strength – expected to affect west coast areas from Sagres up to the Alentejo bringing powerful waves, wind and rain by Thursday.
As many as 900 airline passengers are certain to be affected in the next couple of days, due to the impossibility of running scheduled flights in and out of the archipelago.
This tropical storm has been a ‘record breaker’, say international sources.
The New York Times says its “path and size remain unique. The storm is very broad, with tropical-force winds covering a span of around 500 miles”.
The worst affected islands on the Azorian archipelago are expected to be Flores and Corvo. Waves of up to 25 metres are forecast, with ripple effects – including riptides – likely to be felt across the entire Atlantic basin.
Miguel Miranda, president of IPMA, Portugal’s meteorological institute, told the NYT that Lorenzo is “totally unusual for this kind of environment”.
“Most of the infrastructure (on the Azores) is not really prepared for this kind of situation”, he added.
Nonetheless, local sources are continuing to stress there are ‘no reasons for alarm’ – simply that people should be aware, make preparations and keep away from the sea.
Vasco Cordeiro, president of the regional government, stressed in a statement on Sunday that “proper steps are being taken in the areas of public works, transport, social solidarity, housing, health and education, among other sectors, in addition to the actions that are being carried out by the Azores Region Civil Protection and Fire Service”.
As to the causes of Lorenzo, Miguel Miranda said that while he could not attribute any single storm of event to global warming alone, it is clear that the warmer than usual temperature of the sea has contributed to this storm’s strength.
Lorenzo “is not normal”, he told NYT reporters.
As for the storm’s trajectory, it is expected to continue on past Portugal’s west coast to affect the UK and west coast of Ireland.