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. Portugal's Mid-Atlantic Azores Brace For Tropical Storm

File photo: Satellite image of Tropical Storm Debby which threatened the Azores Islands, 23 August 2006. Photo courtesy of NOAA and AFP.
by Staff Writers
Lisbon (AFP) Sep 18, 2006
Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands braced for strong winds, tidal surges and torrential rain after the national weather office warned Monday that a tropical storm was heading towards the archipelago. Hurricane Gordon was expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it hits the nine-island chain, about 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) west of mainland Portugal, on Tuesday evening due to its movement over colder waters, the office said on its Internet site.

The storm was expected to batter the islands until Wednesday with sustained winds of 100 kilometres an hour, with gusts up to 150 kilometres an hour, the possibility of thunderstorms and 10- to 12-metre swells.

Air and maritime travel on the islands, which is home to around 250,000 people, was expected to be disrupted by the storm, the weather office said.

Emergency services boosted the number personnel who will be on call and advised residents to close doors and windows, clear storm sewers, move livestock to safe areas and lock away farm equipment and garbage bins.

The head of the Azores' firefighting and civil protection service, Antonio Cunha, asked local authorities to close all schools on the archipelago as a precautionary measure.

"Many children leave home early to go to school, traveling great distances by car," he told the Lusa news agency.

The two westernmost islands in the archipelago, Corvo and Flores islands, were forecast to take the brunt of the storm. The weather office put the two islands on red alert, the highest level of the country's four-level weather alert scale which warns that weather conditions pose a "high risk".

The remaining seven islands remained on at the lowest alert level.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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