'Serious concerns' Hurricane Lorenzo could hit as all local authorities instructed to activate crisis management
The most powerful storm ever recorded so far north so early in the hurricane season could hit Ireland on Thursday after weakening to a tropical cyclone.
Met Éireann officials admitted they were "seriously concerned" about the eventual track of Lorenzo, though its final route by Irish waters won't be definitely known for another 24 hours.
Lorenzo could hit Ireland with strong winds and very heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday - but several meteorological models indicate it may also miss Ireland as it sweeps north past the west coast.
The storm - which formed in the mid-Atlantic - is almost 3,000km from Ireland but is expected to spark flash floods in the Azores today as it sweeps past.
Lorenzo is the most powerful storm ever monitored so far north so early in the hurricane season and briefly became a monster category five hurricane, the most powerful possible.
It has since weakened and, by the time it approaches European waters, it is expected to weaken further and be downgraded to a tropical cyclone.
Even if it misses Ireland, it will affect Irish weather over both Thursday and Friday, bringing blustery winds, potentially heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures thanks to warm air swept up from the tropics.
Met Éireann's Evelyn Cusack said Lorenzo could result in exceptionally dangerous conditions off the Irish coast - but she warned the final path of the storm won't be known for another 24 hours.
Weather experts are now carefully monitoring Lorenzo to determine its final path - either north towards Iceland where it will pass offshore off Ireland's west coast, or east towards the Bay of Biscay and southern Europe.
It is possible the storm could track directly over Ireland - which would trigger weather and safety alerts.
The storm is expected to produce dangerous sea swells and rip currents.
"Its exact track and central pressure is still very uncertain as is the timing (of its arrival off Ireland)," Met Éireann's Deirdre Lowe said.
"It is most likely going to track northwards and stay to the west of Ireland.
"Some wet and windy weather is expected.
"It will become mild over the country due to the influence of the tropical origin air.
"But the risk of severe weather continues and the progress of Lorenzo and any potential impacts for Ireland are being closely monitored."
Housing and Local Government Minister Eoghan Murphy last night said his officials have contacted all local authorities and asked them to activate their crisis management arrangements.
A decision on whether or not to convene a meeting of the National Emergency Co-ordination Group will be decided this morning based on the latest forecast from Met Éireann, he said.
"The national picture is for winds to pick up on Wednesday evening, with rainfall and wind continuing throughout Thursday and into Friday morning.
"The OPW confirm that high seas and potential storm surges may occur along the coast as this system approaches Ireland," added Mr Murphy.
If, as predicted, Lorenzo weakens to a cyclone, its maximum wind gusts will be around 120kmh with sustained wind speeds below 100kmh.
Meanwhile parts of Munster and Leinster suffered torrential downpours yesterday. Almost 40mm of rain fell in some parts and there was spot-flooding.