Hurricane Lorenzo Batters Azores Island

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Hurricane Lorenzo powered across the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, lashing the Azores Islands with heavy rains, powerful winds and high waves but causing only minor damage, according to authorities.

The Azores Civil Protection Agency said the Category 2 hurricane felled trees and power lines as it passed just west of the Portuguese island chain.

Hurricanes the size of Lorenzo are rare so far north and east in the Atlantic basin. Lorenzo is producing huge swells across the North Atlantic as it moves northeast toward Ireland and the United Kingdom and weakens to a Category 1 hurricane.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said swells generated by Lorenzo are being felt along the eastern coast of the United States, Canada and the Bahamas as well as in parts of western Europe. The swells are bringing life-threatening surf and rip currents, it warned.

It said Lorenzo is "likely be a fairly vigorous cyclone" when it reaches Ireland late Thursday.

The U.K. Met Office forecast "very strong winds and heavy rain" for western areas of the country on Thursday and Friday.

The Portuguese weather agency reported gusts of up to 145 kph (90 mph) in the Azores --- lower than forecast as Lorenzo lost power over cooler water.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said he had spoken to Azores officials at daybreak and the hurricane risk had peaked without major incident.

"Fortunately, everything indicates that things have not turned out as badly as we feared," Costa told reporters in Lisbon.

Azores Civil Protection Agency chief Carlos Neves said two homes were safely evacuated and no injuries were reported. Emergency crews were removing fallen trees from roads and restoring downed power lines, he said.

Around 250,000 people live on the Azores' nine volcanic islands and the archipelago is a popular tourist destination, famed for its lakes, mountains and volcanic craters.

Authorities in the archipelago placed seven islands on red alert as Lorenzo approached. School classes were canceled and government offices were closed as people were told to remain indoors Wednesday.

Azores airline SATA canceled all flights to the archipelago, and some islands closed their ports.

(KR)