SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Alex intensified to hurricane strength on Thursday morning in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean. Alex had maximum wind speeds of 85 mph and was moving to the north-northeast at about 20 mph.
"Remarkably, Alex has undergone the transformation into a hurricane," according to the National Hurricane Center. "A distinct eye is present, embedded within a fairly symmetric mass of deep convection."
Since hurricane season does not officially start until June 1st, it is particularly unusual to see storms form during this time of year.
"Alex is the first hurricane to form in the month of January since 1938, and the first hurricane to occur in this month since Alice of 1955," read a Thursday discussion from the NHC.
The Azores Islands, just to the west of Spain, are under a Hurricane Warning.
Alex will bring tropical-storm-force winds to portions of the Azores late Thursday into early Friday as well as heavy rains and storm surge. As much as seven inches of rainfall are expected through Friday, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.
How is a storm such as Alex able to strengthen when the water temperature in that region is only about 68 degrees?
"In this case, the heat that is fueling Alex is relative," answered WLOX Meteorologist Wesley Williams. "So, the water near the Azores is certainly cold for a typical tropical system. But, the air in the upper atmosphere above Alex is much colder. So, the water in this case is relatively warm compared to the air aloft. That difference in temperature is boosting atmospheric instability in that region, fueling Alex in a similar way that 80 degree water near the equator would fuel a typical tropical system."
The official NHC forecast says Alex will continue northward into colder waters, eventually becoming absorbed by another low at high latitudes. The storm poses no threat to the United States.