Coast Guard Sector Key West changes port condition, announces bridge restrictions

MIAMI – Effective 6 p.m. Saturday, Hurricane Condition X-RAY (sustained Gale Force winds from a hurricane force storm are predicted within 48 hours) is set for the Port of Key West, Fla.

Due to mandatory evacuations, the last scheduled lift for the Jew Fish Creek and Snakefish Creek Bridges on U.S. 1 in Monroe County will be at 8 a.m. Sunday. Boaters must take proper measures to navigate either of these bridges prior to them being locked in the down position. Based on weather conditions, bridge closures are subject to change and boaters should monitor VHF Channel 16 for any changes.

The port of Key West is open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue during this port condition. All oceangoing commercial vessels and oceangoing barges greater than 500 gross-tons are to make plans for departing the port area. Vessels desiring to remain in port must immediately contact the captain of the port to receive permission to do so, and they are required to submit a safe mooring plan in writing. Vessels bound for this port, which are unable to depart 24 hours prior to threatening winds making landfall, are advised to seek an alternate destination.

Port facilities are advised to review their heavy weather plan and take all necessary precautions to adequately prepare for the expected conditions.

The Coast Guard is warning the public of these important safety messages:

Stay off the water. The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed. That is why boaters should heed to weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories.

Evacuate as necessary. If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.

Secure belongings. Owners of larger boats are urged to move their boats to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or sustaining damage. Trailerable boats should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding. Those who are leaving their boats in the water are reminded to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not secured properly, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure they are not actually people in distress.

Stay clear of beaches. Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by a tropical storm or hurricane. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.

Be prepared. Area residents should prepare by developing a family plan, creating a disaster supply kit, having a place to go, securing their home and having a plan for pets. Information can be found at the Nation Hurricane Center’s webpage.

Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of Hurricane Ike through local television, radio and the internet.

For information on the progress of Hurricane Ike and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center‘s web page.

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