As Hurricane Alex bears down on the Portuguese islands, US officials say a hurricane hasn’t formed in the Atlantic at this time of year since 1938
A rare January hurricane formed far out in the Atlantic on Thursday, and US officials said it was the first hurricane to form in the month of January for almost 80 years.
Hurricane Alex’s maximum sustained winds were near 85 mph. A hurricane warning was issued for Portugal’s mid-Atlantic Azores Islands, where the Civil Protection Service issued a weather red alert, the highest of four warnings that indicates extreme risk, for five of the archipelago’s nine islands. It said residents should expect waves up to 18 metres high and wind gusts up to 100 mph.
The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said in a Facebook post that there hadn’t been a hurricane present during the month of January since 1955, when Alice formed in late December 1954 and carried over into the next month. The NHC said it was the first time a hurricane had formed in January in the Atlantic since 1938.
The hurricane was centred about 415 miles south of Faial Island in the central Azores and was moving north-northeast near 20 mph. Alex was expected to move near or over parts of the Azores on Friday, the US National Hurricane Centre said.
The Azores government on Thursday advised kindergartens to stay closed and told residents to ensure drainage systems were not blocked.
The archipelago, which has a population of around 250,000, has been threatened by hurricanes before, but they usually lose their strength as they move into colder northern water.
Alex formed only days after a rare event in the Pacific. An El Nino-related tropical storm formed southwest of Hawaii last week. Tropical Storm Pali, only the third such system to develop in January in over 40 years, had weakened to a depression by Thursday and was expected to dissipate in the next day or so. It never made landfall and was no threat to land.
However, Alex’s formation has nothing to do with El Nino, according to NOAA Climate Prediction Centre deputy director Mike Halpert. NOAA researcher Jim Kossin said the water Alex formed in was about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal, still barely warm enough for a storm to form.