×

Azores Threatened By Of Out-Of-Season Hurricane Named Alex

In this handout from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Alex is seen in the Atlantic after being upgraded from a storm on January 14, 2016.
Getty Images
In this handout from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Alex is seen in the Atlantic after being upgraded from a storm on January 14, 2016.

A hurricane named Alex has made his debut in the Atlantic Ocean six months before the cyclone season officially starts — the first time in 78 years a storm like this has formed in the month of January.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and churning northward at a speed of 20 mph, Alex was expected to start lashing the Azores with high winds by Friday, meteorologist Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center warned Thursday.

It was also expected to dump up to 7 inches of rain, raising the threat of flash flooding and land slides in the archipelago some 900 miles west of Portugal.

Read more from NBC:
El Chapo's text messages revealed
Freezing temperatures in Chicago
Muslim gamer banned form playing online

"The good news is this won't last very long," Feltgen told NBC News. "The bad news is it is going straight through the Azores."

With an eye 15 miles wide, Alex is an average-sized storm. But he arrived almost six months before the June 1 start of the hurricane season, which lasts until Nov. 30 and during which 97 percent of hurricanes arrive.

"It's very rare," Feltgen said. "With records going back to 1851, we only have one hurricane that formed in the Atlantic basin in January and that was in 1938."

Feltgen said they began tracking Alex last week when they realized the key meteorological ingredients were in place for a hurricane to grow.

Among other things, he said, "the water temperature is warm enough to sustain this thing."

There is a growing body of evidence that hurricanes are becoming more intense as global warming heats the oceans.