Hurricane Ophelia, a powerful Category 2 hurricane, is forecast to strike Ireland head-on on Monday. The collision course with Europe is an unusual one. On the current forecast track in the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory, Ophelia will strike Ireland with hurricane force winds on Monday and eventually move north and east over Scotland and England before dissipating over Scandinavia.
The last hurricane to strike Europe was 1961’s Hurricane Debbie. The storm moved through the Azores as a Category 1 hurricane and moved north and east to the west coast of Ireland. Major destruction was observed on Ireland; wind gusts reached 106mph at Ballykelly and 104mph at Tiree and Snaefill, and coastal radio stations reported the airwaves were jammed with calls for help from small ships and fishing craft. Debbie claimed 18 lives with 50 injuries tallied. Winds in Great Britain up to 100mph were observed, causing significant damage there too.
There is some debate whether or not Hurricane Debbie was a tropical or post-tropical cyclone at the time of impact; there is also debate over whether or not Ophelia will transform from a tropical to non-tropical cyclone before landfall. While there’s significant differences in the meteorological technicalities, the practical impacts are mainly the same. Heavy rain, destructive storm surge, and damaging winds will be likely where Ophelia nears the coast.
Ahead of the storm’s arrival, the Irish weather service, Met Éireann, has issued a Status Yellow Alert for Monday. They write, “On Monday, an Atlantic storm from the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia will move northwards close to Ireland. There is still a high degree of uncertainty regarding the exact track and evolution of the storm. However, storm force winds, heavy rain and high seas are threatened. Met Eireann will continue to monitor this storm and will issue appropriate warnings as required.”
Hurricane Ophelia has broken weather records. Hurricane Ophelia is the strongest hurricane this far east in the Atlantic outside of the tropics since 2012’s Gordon. This is also the strongest hurricane ever recorded this far east this late in the hurricane season, which runs from June through to the end of November.
According to Bloomberg, using the current forecast track from the National Hurricane Center, damages from Hurricane Ophelia could reach $800 million in Ireland and $300 million in the U.K., as well as tens of millions in France, Spain and Portugal, according to Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.