As multiple areas of the U.S., including Texas and Puerto Rico, are struggling to recover while an unusually active hurricane season continues, Ireland and the United Kingdom are prepping for related trouble on the other side of the pond. The 10th hurricane of the season, Ophelia, intensified on Saturday to a Category 3 storm, which qualified it as the strongest hurricane ever recorded that far East in the Atlantic.
The Weather Channel notes that Ophelia has since weakened to a Category 1 storm and may further downgrade to a post-tropical cyclone before hitting Ireland on Monday. However, it will likely still be the most intense storm to strike Ireland in half a century. The system is expected to pack 80 mph wind gusts and torrential rains that could cause storm surges with “large and destructive waves” in both Ireland and England, where officials have warned of “danger to life from flying debris” near the coasts.
To be certain, this is a rare breed of hurricane. Ophelia’s unusual path took it over cold waters, which transformed the storm’s structure. So, instead of still possessing the powerful center that’s characteristic of most hurricanes, the lowered temperatures have caused the system to grow in size, which means (according to the Washington Post) that “its field of damaging winds will expand and cover more territory.” Here’s more:
Maximum sustained winds of at least 70 mph are projected by the time Ophelia reaches Ireland, and the National Hurricane Center forecast shows almost the entirety of Ireland guaranteed to witness tropical-storm force winds of over 39 mph. Hurricane force gusts of up to 80 mph are possible.
“This will be a significant weather event for Ireland with potentially high impacts — structural damage and flooding (particularly coastal) — and people are advised to take extreme care,” the Irish Meteorological Service said. It issued a “red warning,” its highest-level storm alert for the southern and coastal areas.
In other words, Ireland and England (along with coastal areas throughout the rest of the U.K.) may see substantial damage from Ophelia despite the storm’s seemingly unimpressive intensity upon landfall. Here’s a NOAA satellite image of Ophelia on Saturday, as tweeted by CBS Boston Chief Meteorologist Jeff Fisher, who noted the storm’s “extremely rare” characteristics.