Hurricane Lorenzo was about 1,420 miles southwest of the Azores Saturday night—the furthest north and east that a category 5 hurricane has ever been recorded in the Atlantic, a hurricane specialist tells the New York Times. The archipelago of volcanic islands, home to around 250,000 people, is a protectorate of Portugal, which lies 850 miles to the east. Lorenzo, which has since been downgraded to a category 2 hurricane, is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rain, and waves more than 70 feet high to the Azores as it continues traveling northeast, and meteorologists are warning residents the uncharacteristically strong storm could be hitting them Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Fox News notes rough seas caused by Lorenzo are blamed for the sinking of a tugboat 1,200 nautical miles off Martinique Thursday, killing some of the crew.
Lorenzo, which started as a tropical storm last Monday off the coast of West Africa, is also quite broad, its winds covering an area of about 500 miles, and those winds could reach as far as the UK and Ireland. "This is something totally unusual for this kind of environment," a Portuguese expert says. "Most of the infrastructure is not really prepared for this kind of situation." He adds that the storm's size and strength (which he says is due in part to warmer water) are also unusual, concluding that Lorenzo "is not normal." The AP notes that hurricanes usually die down as they reach the cooler waters around the Azores; another Portuguese expert says Lorenzo is taking longer than usual to do so because it's so big—and that, due to climate change, the Azores can expect more storms of a similar strength in the future. (Read more hurricane stories.)