Hurricane Ophelia barrels toward Ireland | News | DW | 15.10.2017
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Hurricane Ophelia barrels toward Ireland

Ireland has braced itself for the storm's powerful impact. The hurricane skirted the Azores as it continued on its northeasterly Atlantic course, packing 185 kph winds and threatening torrential rain and floods.

The Shakespearean name aptly fits the dramatic weather situation: Hurricane Ophelia, the farthest northeast Atlantic hurricane on record, was upgraded to a Category 3 storm as it passed next to the Portuguese Azores on Saturday evening on its expected northeasterly course toward Ireland.

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"We have informed the American hurricane center that Ophelia has become Category 3, but that doesn't change our levels of alert," said Elsa Vieira from the Portuguese Meteorological Institute's (IPMA) regional service.

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The storm was packing winds of over 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers an hour), although it is expected to weaken before arriving on the west coast of the British Isles. The US National Hurricane Center said that Ophelia will likely weaken before making landfall on the Emerald Isle, but warned that it could still be powerful.

Colorado State University Hurricane Specialist Philip Klotzbach said that Ophelia's eastern location was unprecedented, also pointing out that it was the farthest north a hurricane has traveled this late in the calendar year since 1939.

Ireland prepares for rain and wind

The Irish Meteorological Service issued a "severe" weather alert for five counties in the western part of Ireland for Monday morning into early Tuesday. Constant high and gusting winds of up to 80 miles an hour (130 kilometers per hour) could cause damage and disruption, the service warned, as well as the possibility of high seas and flooding.

All schools have been ordered to remain closed on Monday. 

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Britain's meteorological service also warned that high winds might hit Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England.

On Saturday evening, inhabitants of the Azores had braced themselves for 2 to 4 inches (51 to 101 millimeters) of rain. Authorities placed seven of the nine islands on red alert as they told people to stay home. 

Ophelia is the sixth major hurricane this season. The storm's formation is an encore appearance; in 2005, a hurricane bearing the same name moved upward along the eastern Atlantic coast of the United States.

cmb/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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