Near the end of a long hurricane season that has included destructive blows from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, one more powerful storm has appeared on the horizon.
Surprisingly, however, Hurricane Ophelia is not aiming for the hard-hit U.S. or the Caribbean, but rather for Ireland.
"In last 40 to 50 years, this is the first time we've seen storm of this magnitude in this location in the northeast Atlantic," said David Zelinsky, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
At 11 a.m. Sunday, Ophelia was 635 miles east of the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph. The Category 1 hurricane was moving northeast at 38 mph.
Although forecasters expected the storm to lose its tropical characteristics and no longer be a hurricane when it strikes the island Monday, many in Ireland are bracing for what could be the worst storm since 1961, according to Met Eireann, the country's national meteorological service.
Areas including Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway and Mayo are set to see winds in excess of 80 mph forecasters said. The Irish meteorological service has issued its highest possible "status red" warning ahead of Ophelia's arrival, saying that large waves may lead to flooding in coastal areas.
"The rare thing about Ophelia is that it has maintained its status as a hurricane," Zelinsky said.
While the National Hurricane Center has handed off responsibility for tracking the storm to the Irish and British meteorological services, forecasters are still monitoring the system.
Gale-force winds are expected to begin across southern Ireland by early Monday morning and gradually spread northward across the country during the day, forecasters said.
Hurricane-force winds are expected to reach the southern parts of Ireland by Monday afternoon and spread inland across the country into Monday night.
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