Hurricane Ophelia heading for Portugal's Azores islands
If Ophelia continues its current trajectory, it will not directly hit the islands, but winds of up to 65 km per hour can be expected.
The storm is predicted to reach 1,100 km south of the nine-island archipelago by late Thursday, before arcing east. The strongest winds are forecast for early Saturday.
The island most at risk is Santa Maria, the southeastern most of the archipelago, where the chance of a gale of 65 km per hour is between 50 percent and 60 percent.
For Sao Miguel island, home to Ponta Delgada, the administrative capital of the Autonomous Region of the Azores, a town with a population of 70,000, the likelihood of such wind speeds stands at 30 to 40 percent.
But the storm is no longer expected to strike mainland Portugal and northern Spain.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami, the United States, upgraded Ophelia from the category of tropical storm to hurricane late on Wednesday.
At the time, models suggested Ophelia would meet land in Portugal and northern Spain. If so, it will be only the third time in history that a hurricane to hit the Iberian Peninsula.
But tracking models now predict a tighter trajectory, with Ophelia remaining at sea before possibly striking Ireland.
Ophelia is the 10th consecutive Atlantic hurricane this year, making 2017 the third most active hurricane season ever, after 1933 and 2005.
Though gaining in strength, Ophelia is a Category 1 hurricane, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Two of 2017's 10 hurricanes, namely Irma and Maria, reached the maximum Category 5 level, while two others, Harvey and Jose, were Category 4.
More than 350 people have died as a direct or indirect consequence of the 2017 hurricanes in Central America, the Carribean and the United States. ■