JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Effective 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard captain of the port (COTP) set port condition Whiskey for the Port of Charleston due to the expectation of sustained gale force winds of 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph generated by Hurricane Matthew that may arrive within 72 hours.
These ports and facilities are currently open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue while Whiskey remains in effect. Facilities are advised to review their heavy weather plan and take all necessary precautions to adequately prepare for the expected conditions.
Mariners are reminded there are no safe havens in these facilities and ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum. All ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans for departing the port.
Vessels desiring to remain in port must immediately contact the captain of the port, Coast Guard Sector Charleston at (843) 740-7050, to receive permission to do so and are required to submit a safe mooring plan in writing. Vessels bound for Charleston unable to depart 24 hours prior to threatening winds making landfall are advised to seek an alternate destination.
Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor. Drawbridges may not be operating if sustained winds reach 25 mph or when an evacuation is in progress.
Port facilities are advised to review their heavy weather plans and take all necessary precautions to adequately prepare for the expected conditions.
Mariners can anticipate the Coast Guard setting port readiness condition X-ray when sustained gale force winds from Matthew are within 48 hours of landfall.
If and when port readiness condition Yankee is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 24 hours, vessel movement shall be restricted, and all movements must be approved by the Captain of the Port.
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. Boaters should heed 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 large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or to suffer 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 EPIRBs, life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not secured properly, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources to 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 hurricanes. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.
- Be prepared. Area residents should develop a family plan, create a disaster supply kit, have a place to go, and prepare to secure their home and care for their pets. Information can be found at the National Hurricane Center’s webpage.
- Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through local television, radio and internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF radio channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16.
Information on how to prepare your boat or trailer for a hurricane can be found at the Coast Guard’s Storm Center webpage.
For information on Hurricane Matthew’s progress and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s webpage.