September 30, 2019 / 9:22 AM / 2 months ago

Residents in Portugal's Azores brace for hurricane Lorenzo

TERCEIRA, Portugal (Reuters) - Hurricane Lorenzo is expected to hit Portugal’s Azores islands early on Wednesday, potentially causing life-threatening flash floods, even as it weakened along its path on Monday.

People run at the port of Angra do Heroismo on the Azores islands, Portugal September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Residents were preparing to board up their windows as the hurricane approached the mid-Atlantic islands

“We will have to protect our property because if it still comes with intensity, it will hit us,” Alcino Machado, who lives on the Azores’ island of Terceira, told Reuters

Lorenzo briefly strengthened to a category 5 hurricane on Saturday evening, becoming the strongest hurricane on record this far north and east in the Atlantic, but has since been downgraded to category 2, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

The NHC said early on Monday that Lorenzo was moving north at 13 mph (20 kph), with its eye expected to pass near the Azores early on Wednesday.

While further weakening was expected over the next two days, Lorenzo was set to remain a large and powerful hurricane, according to the NHC.

Portugal’s Civil Protection department has asked people to fell trees at risk of falling, keep drainage systems clear, store loose garden objects, shelter animals and contact authorities if leaks, strange noises or cracks in walls become noticeable.

Not all residents were as concerned as Machado.

One, Jose Eliseu, said hurricanes often divert before reaching the islands, whose inhabitants are accustomed to hurricane and storm warnings.

“I’m afraid when they do not warn too much and then it appears,” he said.

With winds of 105 mph (170 kph), Lorenzo is set to produce up to 4 inches (10 cm) of rain over much of the western Azores on Tuesday and Wednesday. Central Azores will be hit by 1 inch of rainfall, the NHC said.

“This rainfall could cause life-threatening flash flooding in the western Azores,” NHC said, adding the storm is now 1,125 miles (1,815 km) southwest of the Azores.

The economy of the Azores is highly dependent on agriculture, fishing and tourism, which can be easily disrupted by catastrophic weather.

The NHC said the islands of Flores, Corvo, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira were on hurricane watch, while the islands of Sao Miguel and Santa Maria were under tropical storm watches. Such warnings are issued when a hurricane or a tropical storm is likely within the area.

Reporting by Miguel Pereira and Rafael Marchante in Terceira, Azores, and Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Giles Elgood

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