Hurricane Ophelia's winds strengthen to 85 miles per hour on slow trek toward Ireland


Tropical Storm Ophelia looked like a hurricane but wasn't one quite yet, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday morning.

Hurricane force winds extend 25 miles out from the center, tropical storm force winds extend 70 miles out.

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Ophelia became a hurricane on Wednesday, becoming the 10th hurricane in the Atlantic in 2017, the National Hurricane Center said.

Ophelia is forecast to drift slowly east for the next day or so before stronger upper-level winds arrive later this week and accelerate it toward the east-northeast just south of the Azores.

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The Category 1 hurricane has max sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kph). There were two others, Harvey and Jose, that reached Category 4 strength. However, if it does strike the Irish coast, it will not do so as a hurricane, but a tropical storm.

Some of Ophelia's rain bands are likely to hit the Azores islands over the weekend. The storm may still be capable of producing powerful winds, on the order of 60 to 80 miles per hour, when it makes its closest approach to Ireland and the United Kingdom, which it's forecast to do on Monday. Before satellites, it was hard to keep accurate records of Atlantic hurricanes.

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The storm formed well outside what meteorologists refer as the "main development region", where most hurricanes form in the Atlantic. But the storm is heading east toward the northwest coast of Spain instead of crossing the Atlantic toward the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean. It is now forecast to stay west of Portugal before bringing gusty winds and rain to Ireland early next week.