Rare January hurricane moves closer to mid-Atlantic Azores

MIAMI - A rare January hurricane in the Atlantic closed in on the Azores on Friday, with authorities in the Portuguese islands warning of waves up to 18 metres high, wind gusts up to 160 kph and torrential rain.

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Hurricane Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938. Its maximum sustained winds decreased to near 120 kph, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it expected little change in Alex's strength over the coming days.

Nevertheless, it said Alex was likely to lose its tropical characteristics by Friday afternoon or overnight as it moved over colder waters.

Early Friday, the centre reported Alex was centred about 210 kilometres south of Terceira Island, one of nine Azores islands, where a hurricane warning was in effect, and was moving north near 37 kph.

Azores authorities said they expected the storm to be at its peak on Friday morning. Schools and government offices on several islands remained closed, and officials told people to stay indoors. Azores regional airline SATA cancelled morning flights.

The archipelago has a population of around 250,000.



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