LISBON (Reuters) – As hurricane Lorenzo moves closer, Portugal’s Azores archipelago is bracing for strong winds, heavy rain and towering waves and the country’s meteorology agency IPMA said there was more than an 80% chance of the storm hitting the mid-Atlantic islands.
In a statement published on Sunday, IPMA said the eye of category 4 hurricane Lorenzo would pass “very close” to the archipelago on Wednesday, with gales of up to 125 miles per hour (mph) expected to batter some areas.
The storm briefly strengthened to a category 5 hurricane on Saturday evening, becoming the strongest hurricane on record this far north and east in the Atlantic, but has since been downgraded.
The Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, said a “weakening trend” was now expected but forecasters believe Lorenzo could still have a significant impact on the Azores.
IPMA said the western islands of Flores and Corvo are likely to be most affected, as well as the central islands of Sao Jorge, Pico, Graciosa, Faial and Terceira, one of the largest of the archipelago.
The storm is now 1,367 miles (2,200 km) southwest of Azores, IPMA said.
The National Hurricane Centre (NHC), a Miami-based weather forecaster, said that “strong winds are becoming increasingly likely” in Azores on Tuesday evening and Wednesday.
Warning residents to monitor the hurricane’s progress, NHC said “large swells” would continue to spread across much of the north Atlantic.
“These swells will produce life-threatening surf and rip currents,” it said.
The economy of the Azores is highly dependent on industries such as agriculture, fishing and tourism which can be easily disrupted by catastrophic weather events.
Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Gareth Jones