Hurricane Lorenzo reached Portugal's Azores islands early on Wednesday, causing power outages and knocking down trees across the mid-Atlantic archipelago, authorities said.
Category 2 Hurricane Lorenzo lashed the Azores Islands on Wednesday with heavy rains, powerful winds, and high waves causing power outages, knocking down trees across the mid-Atlantic archipelago, and significantly damaging one island’s main port authorities said.
The hurricane, packing 150 km/h winds, was likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, with only a slow weakening forecast over the next 48 hours, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
The nine islands of the Azores lie about 1,500 km west of the Portuguese mainland and are home to nearly 250,000 people.
"This might be the strongest (hurricane) in the last 20 years," said Carlos Neves, head of the Azores' civil protection authority. "Although it shifted slightly in recent days to the west, it has affected us in a very aggressive way."
The NHC said hurricane-force winds are currently battering the western Azores, while the archipelago's central islands are experiencing tropical storm conditions.
The eye of hurricane Lorenzo is near Flores island in the western Azores but it is expected to move northeast quickly. Hurricane warnings are still in effect for the islands of Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira.
Civil Protection said the winds won't gain much more intensity and will eventually become weaker.
Met Eireann, the national meteorological service, issued a status orange wind warning on Wednesday for six counties on the west coast and a yellow warning nationwide for Thursday night and Friday morning.
According to the Azores Civil Protection Agency, the hurricane felled trees and power lines as it passed just west of the Portuguese island chain. Schools were cancelled and government offices were closed as people were told to remain indoors Wednesday
Azores airline SATA cancelled all flights to the archipelago, and some islands closed their ports.
No one has been injured although there have been cases of trees falling down, Civil Protection said.
Neves said power cuts and mobile network problems were reported on Flores, one of the worst-hit islands.
"We hope to fix those issues in the next few days," Neves said.
Lorenzo briefly became a Category 5 hurricane at the weekend, the strongest on record this far north and east in the Atlantic, but it has since been downgraded, striking the Azores as a Category 1.
Schools and non-emergency services will be closed across the Azores on Wednesday, the regional government has said, with ports on some islands also shut. Authorities have closed numerous streets and roads.
NHC said Lorenzo will move away from the Azores on Wednesday and closer to Ireland on Thursday evening.
"Lorenzo is expected to be a strong extratropical cyclone when it approaches Ireland," NHC added.