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Rare, powerful hurricane heads toward Ireland

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Record-setting Ophelia, a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour (115 mph), was passing east of the Azores on Saturday on its path toward Ireland.

Ophelia will have big impacts for the British Isles beginning Monday, including hurricane-force winds forecast for Ireland.

The fast-moving storm intensified Saturday but is expected gradually weaken overnight and become a post-tropical cyclone within 24 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It warns the powerful storm will still bring hurricane-force winds as moves it near Ireland and the United Kingdom.

“Direct impacts from wind and heavy rain in portions of these areas are likely, along with dangerous marine conditions,” the center said late Saturday. “Although the center of Ophelia is not forecast to reach Ireland or the UK until Monday, wind and rains will arrive well in advance of the cyclone center.”

Tropical-storm-force winds are possible throughout the Azores Saturday night behind a cold front following the hurricane, the NHC said.

“The odd part about Ophelia is seeing this intensification take place in what’s normally a much cooler region of the Atlantic Ocean,” CNN Meteorologist Allison Chinchar said.

“Wind is going to be the biggest factor,” Chinchar said of the forecast for Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where wind gusts could reach 130 kph (80mph). The coasts of Portugal and Spain will see wind gusts of up to 90 kph (56 mph).

Chinchar said because the storm is racing along at more than 44 kph (28 mph), it won’t have much of a chance to deluge Ireland.

Met Éireann, Ireland’s National Meteorological Service, issued a red wind warning covering the counties of Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry and Mayo.

It said the storm could bring fierce winds “potentially causing structural damage and disruption, with dangerous marine conditions due to high seas and potential flooding.”

The Met Office in the UK said there were yellow wind warnings for Northern Ireland and parts of Great Britain for Monday and Tuesday.

As it moves northeast the storm will weaken and forecasters said it will dissipate by Wednesday.

Ophelia is the farthest east that a major hurricane has ever been in the Atlantic. The previous record was held by Frances in 1980, according to CNN Meteorologist Haley Brink.

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, more than a century ago.

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