Portugal issues red alert for rare Atlantic hurricane

Portugal issues red alert for rare Atlantic hurricane
Portugal issues red alert for rare Atlantic hurricane. Reuters/R. Marchante
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Powerful winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour (118 miles per hour) uprooted hundreds of trees and left thousands of homes in Portugal without electricity, as Hurricane Leslie struck overnight into Sunday.

Authorities urged residents in the capital, Lisbon, along with central and northern parts of the country not to venture outdoors, after 27 people were injured. They also warned of possible flooding in coastal areas.

Dozens of people were forced to leave their homes, and a number of flights were canceled.

"I have never seen anything like it," one witness told SIC television in Figueira da Foz, 200 kilometers north of Lisbon, adding that several cars had been damaged there by falling debris.

On Saturday night, the storm, which was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone as it closed in on the Iberian peninsula, swept into central and northern Portugal, before heading towards Spain.

The storm could turn out to be the fiercest to hit Portugal since 1842.

Losing intensity

The severe "red" warning applied to 13 of Portugal's 18 mainland districts.

The Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) said Leslie would continue to lose intensity after making landfall and pass to the category of "post-tropical storm."

Portugal's National Protection Agency advised residents to "avoid at all costs walking on the street."

Gale-force winds and flash floods were forecast from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

It said Leslie would produce rainfalls of 25 to 75 mm (1 to 3 inches) and at some locations as high as 125 mm (5 inches), which would cause flash flooding.

Throughout the weekend, Leslie's ocean swells were also expected to wrack Madeira, the Azores and the Canary Islands.

Experts warned of "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."

Spawned in the western Atlantic

The storm had been spawned in the western Atlantic two weeks ago before heading toward the Iberian Peninsula.

Hurricanes formed on the American side of the Atlantic rarely bring their destructive force to Europe. Only five are on record, including Hurricane Ophelia whose air mass fueled forest fires in Portugal and Spain in 2017.

Spanish meteorologists expected Leslie to reach Spain on Sunday before weakening to a tropical storm.

Spain's Mediterranean island of Mallorca [Majorca] is still recovering from massive rainfalls and flash floods, especially in its eastern coastal regions, last Tuesday that killed 12 people, including tourists from Germany.

mm/jm (AFP, dpa, AP)

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