Ireland, U.K. brace for impact of strengthening Hurricane Ophelia


Hurricane Ophelia strengthened as it bears down on Ireland, threatening everything from farms to a golf course owned by the family of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ophelia turned into a "rare" category 3 hurricane, the sixth major hurricane of the 2017 season, 220 miles south of the Azores, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 4 p.m. London time. It is the most-eastern category 3 Atlantic hurricane on record, according to the U.K.'s Met Office.

The system is moving northeast at 25 miles per hour with top winds of 115 mph, according to the NHC. It is expected to start weakening Saturday night or Sunday.

"Ophelia is still expected to remain a powerful cyclone with hurricane force winds for the next couple of days as it approaches Ireland," the NHC said.

After Hurricane Irma closed Trump's Mar-A-Lago in Florida last month, Ophelia could make landfall close to the Trump family's golf resort near the village of Doonbeg early next week. The resort, which has said it can lose as much as 30 feet of land to coastal erosion during a bad storm, is along the route expected to be hit by Ophelia's gale force winds. Trump International Golf Links & Hotel is constantly reviewing the situation, a spokesman said by email.

Ireland's Met Eireann issued a red wind warning, its highest level, for five counties for Monday, with an orange warning in place for the rest of the nation.

Ophelia could become the strongest post-tropical system to rake Ireland since Hurricane Debbie in 1961, which killed 18 people and stripped almost 25 percent of the trees in some areas, according to Weather Underground. Sixty people died in a plane crash in the Azores caused by Debbie.

By coincidence, Monday is the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm of 1987, which killed almost 20 people in Britain and felled 15 million trees.

The Irish government is monitoring the situation, a spokesman said in an emailed statement. The red warning, indicating average wind speeds of more than 50 miles and hour and gusts of 80 mph or more, is in place for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork and Kerry, Met Eireann said.

Ophelia will move across the country very quickly and may bring heavy rain, if it makes landfall, Gerald Fleming, head of forecasting at the Irish weather service, said Friday on RTE radio.

Associated Press contributed.

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