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Hurricane Ophelia in rare track heads to Ireland, then Scotland

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MIAMI — Hurricane Ophelia continued moving east toward Ireland on Sunday as officials there announced school closings, prepared for flooding and planned for power outages.

Ophelia’s position is the farthest east a major hurricane has traveled in the Atlantic.

The previous record was held by Hurricane Frances in 1980. Frances formed off of the northwest coast of Africa near Senegal, according to an archived National Hurricane Center report. Frances never made landfall.

Ophelia has accelerated on its way to the United Kingdom, picking up to from 35 mph to 38 mph, the hurricane center said in its Sunday midday advisory.

Though the hurricane is expected to weaken at landfall on a predicted path to Scotland, the center’s message remained the same.

“Preparations to protect lives and property should be rushed to completion by this afternoon,” the advisory said.

Ophelia weakened from a Category 3 to a Category 2 hurricane early Sunday, with sustained winds of 105 mph.

The center said Ophelia’s gale force winds were expected in southern Ireland by early Monday, spreading gradually north across the country during the day.

Hurricane-force winds are forecast to arrive by Monday afternoon, spreading inland into Monday night.

“Wind speeds atop and on the windward sides of hills and mountains are often up to 30 percent stronger than the near-surface winds indicated in this advisory, and in some elevated locations could be even greater,” the center said.

Ophelia is also forecast to produce 2 to 3 inches of rain with isolated totals nearing 4 inches through Tuesday across western Ireland and Scotland.

“A dangerous storm surge is expected to produce significant coastal flooding near and to the east of where the center makes landfall. Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves,” the center warned.

Some British media pointed out that the storm was due to arrive 30 years to the day after the Great Storm of 1987.

That storm made landfall in Cornwall, southwest England with winds of 120 mph,  making it the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

It was not technically a hurricane as it had formed in the Bay of Biscay instead of the tropics.

As it moves northeast, the remnants of Ophelia are expected to weaken and forecasters said it will dissipate by Wednesday.

The storm is the sixth major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season and the 10th consecutive named storm in the Atlantic to become a hurricane.

The latter milestone ties a record that has occurred three times, most recently in 1893.