Hurricane Ophelia “could hit Portuguese coast by weekend”

Tropical storm Ophelia has transformed into a hurricane and its on its way to Portugal.

This will be the 10th hurricane this year in the Atlantic Ocean, reports RTP – but it is only the third time in recorded history that a hurricane will have reached Portugal.

Right now, Ophelia is on track for the Azores – most specifically the islands of Santa Maria and São Miguel, where it is likely to be felt in earnest on Saturday afternoon.

Ophelia was upgraded from a tropical storm to a grade 1 hurricane last (Wednesday) night when wind speeds reached 120 kms/ hour.

Travelling at a speed of six kms an hour, Ophelia’s effects could be felt on coastal Portugal by Saturday evening.

As reports explain, temperatures until then will remain higher than normal, dipping by Sunday at which point we should be receiving some (welcome) rain.

If forecasts are correct, rain could continue for the rest of the week, with Ophelia continuing its path towards the UK and Ireland, where it is expected to “provoke strong winds” as well as rain.

Observador website explains that it is “rare” to find a hurricane forming so close to the Azores, and “even rarer” to see one advancing on Europe, because the Azores High – a high-pressure axis – acts as an invisible barrier, usually preventing hurricanes and other cyclonic formations from gathering strength as they approach Europe.

The only cyclonic formations of Ophelia’s size reaching Portugal did so in October 1842 and in October 2005 – when the remnants of Hurricane Vince hit the mainland.

As to any kind of precautions that should be taken, IPMA website for now is simply referring people to Azorean Civil Protection authorities, suggesting that the archipelago’s westernmost islands (Flores and Corvo) should hardly be affected, and the central islands too only run a 5% to 10% probability.

Risks are with the eastern islands (with a 20-30% probability of Ophelia making landfall) and Santa Maria (the most easterly island), which stands around 50% probability.

Risks to the Portuguese mainland appear to be minimal, as Ophelia should pass along the west coast.

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