Hurricane Lorenzo to pound the Azores with up to 70-foot waves, more bodies found from sunken tugboat
An "extremely large" Hurricane Lorenzo is threatening to bring waves of up to 70 feet as it bears down on parts of the Azores Islands this week as officials announced Tuesday that additional bodies have been recovered from the vessel the storm sunk last week.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said as of 8 p.m. ET that Lorenzo is still a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as it moves northeast at 32 mph about 205 miles southwest of Flores in the western Azores.
The storm is forecast to bring hurricane and tropical-storm-force winds to the Portuguese islands beginning Tuesday night, with conditions continuing into Wednesday.
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"On the forecast track, the center of Lorenzo is expected to pass near the western Azores early Wednesday," the NHC said, adding "Only slow weakening is expected during the next 48 hours."
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 345 miles. Colorado State University hurricane research scientist Phil Klotzbach noted on Twitter that Lorenzo is an "extremely large hurricane."
"Hurricane-force winds extend out 80 nautical miles away from the center in all four quadrants - the largest hurricane this far in the east in the Atlantic on record by this metric. Atlantic hurricane size database goes back to 1988," he wrote.
Hurricane warnings have been posted for seven of the Azores' islands and tropical storm warnings for the other two. The remote Portuguese island chain is home to about 250,000 people.
Authorities in the Azores have placed the two westernmost islands, Flores and Corvo, on red alert from midnight through noon Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Waves of up to 22 feet and winds of up to 124 mph are forecast for some islands.
The Azores regional government sent crews out to clear drainage systems during calm daytime weather Tuesday and told residents to prepare their homes. It also canceled Wednesday classes at schools and told government workers--except for those in emergency services--to stay at home. Residents spent Tuesday boarding up their doorways against possible flooding.
Portugal’s Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere expects Lorenzo to weaken to a Category 1 storm by Wednesday as it heads northeast. The storm is taking longer than usual to weaken because of its large size, said Nuno Moreira, head of the agency's weather department.
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Besides high winds and rough seas, the islands are forecast to be drenched by several inches of rain.
The islands will also see high swells, with waves up to 72 feet in the area. The storm is producing high swells across much of the North Atlantic basin, affecting the U.S. East Coast, the Bahamas, and portions of the coast of Europe.
Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, said on Twitter that model forecasts showed "astoundingly high seas" generated by Lorenzo.
Forecasters said Lorenzo likely will weaken to below hurricane strength as it approaches Ireland and the United Kingdom and dissipates by at the end of the week.
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Lorenzo previously was a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest storm ever observed so far north and east in the Atlantic basin. The rough seas generated by the storm have been blamed for sinking a tugboat that was carrying 14 crew members about 1,200 nautical miles off Martinique.
The Bourbon Rhode, a tug supply vessel built in 2006, was about 60 nautical miles east of the eye from Hurricane Lorenzo -- then a Category 4 storm -- when the crew reported trouble on Thursday.
On Saturday, a lifeboat with three crew members from the tug supply vessel was spotted by a French Navy aircraft. The three crew members, who were rescued by a commercial vessel that was in the area to assist rescue teams, were under medical observation. By Monday, French shipping company Bourbon confirmed that a body of one of the missing crew members was found and the sailor's family was notified.
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The company said Tuesday that the bodies of two other crew members were recovered at sea Monday night and transferred to the French Navy frigate "Ventôse."
"On behalf of all BOURBON employees, I would like to pay tribute to the deceased sailors," Bourbon CEO Gaël Bodénès said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones who are grieving over this dramatic event. We stand in full solidarity with them in this ordeal and assure them of our strongest support."
Bodénès, who described the search and rescue effort as "unprecedented," expressed gratitude to all those who have been involved in the work to find the remaining crew members. Since operations started on Sept. 26, 10 commercial vessels have been mobilized in the area and several aircraft -- including a French Navy Falcon 50, U.S. Coast Guard C-130 Hercules -- have joined the French Navy to search for the missing sailors.
Only seven hurricanes Category 2 or stronger have tracked with 200 nautical miles of the Azores dating back to the mid-19th century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Fox News' Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.