TERCEIRA ISLAND, Portugal (Reuters) – As winds started to blow, authorities closed numerous streets and roads in Portugal’s Azores islands in preparation for Hurricane Lorenzo, which is expected to hit the mid-Atlantic archipelago early on Wednesday.
The hurricane, packing 100-mph (155-kph) winds, is likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, with only a slow weakening forecast over the next 48 hours, U.S. forecaster the National Hurricane Center said.
Despite weakening from a Saturday peak, Lorenzo is a strong Category 2 hurricane that is set to hit the islands as a Category 1, Portugal’s meteorological agency IPMA has said.
“The situation will worsen in the next few hours,” Vasco Cordeiro, the president of the regional government, told Portuguese TV channel SIC, as winds strengthened in the western island of Flores, which IPMA expects will be the worst hit.
Schools and non-emergency public services will be closed on Wednesday, the regional government has said, with ports on some islands also shut.
The Miami-based NHC said it expected the eye of Lorenzo to pass near the western Azores, with a hurricane warning in effect for the islands of Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa and Terceira.
Lorenzo briefly became a Category 5 hurricane at the weekend, the strongest on record this far north and east in the Atlantic, but has since been downgraded.
“This hurricane will hit us with some gravity, especially the western islands,” Carlos Neves, the president of the Azores’ civil protection authority, told Reuters. “It will be a long night but we are ready.”
(Reporting by Catarina Demony, Miguel Pereira, Rafael Marchante and Marco Trujillo in Azores; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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