Subtropical Storm Alex became Hurricane Alex on Thursday morning, the first January hurricane to form in the Atlantic since 1938 and the latest twist to an already remarkable winter in the tropics.

As of 7 a.m. Eastern time, Alex was about 490 miles south of the central Azores and had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. It was moving north-northeast at 20 mph.

The Azores Meteorological Service has issued hurricane and tropical storm warnings throughout the islands, where tropical storm-force winds are expected to begin Thursday night and up to 7 inches of rain is expected to fall.

Alex follows the oddball formation of Hurricane Pali in the Pacific, another rare January storm which came unusually close to the equator earlier this week. As of Thursday morning, Pali had weakened to a tropical depression and was expected to dissipate by Friday.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, and it’s unusual for tropical cyclones to form in the winter and spring.
 


“It’s rare, but certainly not unprecedented,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen said. “We’ve had a tropical cyclone occur in every month outside the hurricane season.”

The only other time on record that a hurricane formed in the Atlantic Ocean in January was in 1938, when “Hurricane One” formed southwest of the Azores on New Year’s Day before dissipating six days later.

Feltgen said winter storms such as Alex are not indicators of the severity of the upcoming hurricane season.

Meteorologists have been watching Alex for nearly a week after it formed off a frontal boundary off the southeast U.S. coastline, he said. Alex is expected to weaken after plowing through the Azores and becomes extratropical late Friday.

“It’ll still be a strong extratropical cyclone,” Feltgen said. “In 72 hours, we expect it to dissipate as it’s approaching Greenland.”
 

Hurricane Alex forecast, 10AM EST January 14, 2016
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