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Rare North Atlantic Hurricane Threatens Azores, Ireland

FILE - A woman finds her passage blocked by fallen trees in London, Oct. 16, 1987, after overnight storms with hurricane-force winds caused widespread damage. On the 30th anniversary of the storm, Oct. 16, 2017, Hurricane Ophelia is expected to take aim at Britain and Ireland.

Hurricane Ophelia, a rare storm for the North Atlantic, was expected to bring high winds and rough seas to five western counties of Ireland this weekend.

Ophelia, strengthening offshore near the Azores Islands, was a Category 3 storm, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It had top sustained winds of 185 kilometers per hour (115 mph) and was expected to produce total rain accumulations of up to 10 centimeters (4 inches) over the southern Azores.

Seven of the nine islands of the Azores were on red alert as ordered by regional civil protection services. The islands were expecting heavy rainfall overnight.

The 245,000 people who inhabit the Azores were told to stay inside while the storm passes.

Ophelia was expected to wind down slightly before reaching Ireland as a tropical cyclone on Monday. Five counties were placed on red alert for severe weather conditions on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Irish Meteorological Service.

Ireland, which only rarely sees hurricanes, was expected to endure winds in excess of 130 kph (80 mph) on Monday.

Coincidentally, Monday will be the 30th anniversary of what has been nicknamed the Great Storm of 1987, a hurricane that took down 15 million trees in Britain and killed more than 20 people in Britain and France together.