Daylight dawned Saturday on a Category 3 Lorenzo, forecast to slowly weaken throughout the day. Instead, Lorenzo did the opposite, ramping up to Category 4 status before attaining Category 5 classification briefly overnight Saturday into Sunday. It was an extremely unusual move by the cyclone, which underwent rapid intensification for the second time in three days. It’s the sixth Category 5 Atlantic storm in four years.
Lorenzo set a slew of records, becoming the strongest storm so far northeast in the Atlantic. It stands alone, 600 miles outside of bounds when compared with where other Category 5′s had formed in the past. It has gobbled up and spent more energy than any other recorded storm at this longitude. And its performance is not over yet.
Threat to the Azores
Lorenzo’s now a Category 2 storm with 100-mph winds, and the National Hurricane Center is advising that it’s “maintaining its strength as it heads towards the Azores.” It states further that “only slow weakening is expected during the next 48 hours,” meaning Lorenzo is likely to bring hurricane conditions to the islands.
The Azores aren’t a stranger to hurricanes. They’ve experienced a number of close passes and occasional direct hits, including the landfall of an unnamed Category 2 near Ponta Delgada in 1926. Most systems have degenerated into extra-tropical cyclones by the time they arrive, though in recent years Ophelia and Leslie both passed near the archipelago as low-end hurricanes.
Lorenzo’s wind field is unusually large, with hurricane-force winds extending outward some 90 miles from the center. Hurricane warnings are up for the central and western Azores, while tropical-storm warnings cover Sao Miguel and Santa Maria.
The United Kingdom
By Thursday into Friday, Lorenzo’s transition to an extra-tropical system will take over. The bulk of computer forecasts take Lorenzo’s mid-latitude cyclone into Ireland or the United Kingdom, potentially bringing a significant windstorm to parts of the coast.
While winds will weaken as the storm encounters cooler water and ingests drier air, gusts to at least 60 mph are possible if the system goes ashore.
“At the moment, the strongest winds are expected in western Ireland, with a risk of coastal gales developing in Northern Ireland and western Scotland on Thursday and Wales and southwest England on Friday,” Dan Suri, chief meteorologist at the U.K. Met Office, told Ireland’s Derry Journal.
There are also indications on computer models that a “sting jet” may develop as dry air flowing over the tip of the wrapped-up cyclone helps drag very strong winds to the surface. If this happens, a narrow swath of stronger winds may form, as was the case during Ophelia in 2017 and Leslie last year.
An inch or two of rainfall is also possible in Ireland and the United Kingdom, with the heaviest amounts in western areas.
Pending Lorenzo’s eventual and overdue demise, there are two other systems — one in the Caribbean and one north of Hispaniola — that are being monitored at this point. Both, however, are unlikely to develop.