A rare January hurricane in the Atlantic closed in on the Azores on Friday, with authorities in the Portuguese islands warning of waves up to 18 meters (60 feet) high, wind gusts up to 160 kph (100 mph) and torrential rain.
Hurricane Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938. Its maximum sustained winds decreased to near 75 mph (120 kph), but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it expected little change in Alex's strength over the coming days.
Nevertheless, it said Alex was likely to lose its tropical characteristics by Friday afternoon or overnight as it moved over colder waters.
Early Friday, the center reported Alex was centered about 130 miles (210 kilometers) south of Terceira Island, one of nine Azores islands, where a hurricane warning was in effect, and was moving north near 23 mph (37 kph).
Azores authorities said they expected the storm to be at its peak on Friday morning. Schools and government offices on several islands remained closed, and officials told people to stay indoors. Azores regional airline SATA canceled morning flights.
The archipelago has a population of around 250,000.