A hurricane has hit the Azores, leading to power cuts and the flooding of some homes but the destruction was reportedly less significant than feared. Hurricane Alex became the first storm of its kind to form in the month of January in the north Atlantic since 1938, according to meteorologists.
Alex had seen winds reaching 85mph (140kmh) as it moved north towards Portugal's Azores, with the 245,000 people living on the group of islands warned to expect waves up to 60ft (18 metres) high and wind gusts of up to 100mph. The islands' Civil Protection Service issued a red weather alert, the highest of four warnings, for five of the archipelago's nine islands.
But the damage was less severe than first feared with the eye of the hurricane narrowly missing the archipelago. Winds on the islands blew at 60 to 80mph and waves rarely exceeded about 30 feet (10 metres), according to Reuters. There were no reports of casualties and residents had reinforced doors and windows with plywood and sandbags in preparation, with schools and administrative buildings also closed. As it moved further north it was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm by the US National Hurricane Centre.
Nuno Moreira, meteorologist at the Portuguese Sea and Atmosphere Institute, told Reuters: "The zone of the hurricane with the strongest winds is over the sea. So gusts are somewhat weaker than initially feared."
Only 10 hurricanes on record have come within 200 miles (322Km) of the Azores, and every one of them has occurred in August or September. Scientists have linked the formation of Alex to higher than normal sea surface temperatures resulting from the El Nino phenomenon.
The Met Office said an area of high pressure expected to develop over Britain this weekend should keep Alex over the ocean and away from UK shores as it moves further north. It is predicted to be absorbed into a larger depression in the Atlantic as it approaches the southern tip of Greenland on Sunday (17 January).