Rare January hurricane looms closer to Azores

A rare January hurricane in the Atlantic is closing in on the Azores, with authorities in the Portuguese islands warning of waves up to 60ft high, wind gusts up to 100mph and torrential rain.

Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938. Its maximum sustained winds decreased to near 75mph but the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said it expected little change in strength over the coming days.

Nevertheless, it said Alex is likely to lose its tropical characteristics as it moves over colder waters.

Early today, the centre reported Alex was about 130 miles south of Terceira Island – one of nine Azores islands, where a hurricane warning was in effect - and was moving north at about 23mph.

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

The archipelago has a population of around 250,000.

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