Coast Guard sets port condition Whiskey for the Port of Key West

KEY WEST, Fla.- Effective 6 p.m. Friday, Hurricane Condition WHISKEY (potential for gale force winds from a hurricane force storm are predicted within 72 hours) was set for the Port of Key West, Fla.

All mariners are reminded that there are no safe havens in the Captain of the Port Key West area. The port is safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum. For planning purposes, 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 gale force winds making landfall, are advised to seek an alternate destination. Inland vessels and barges over 500 gross tons are required to seek safe refuge outside the Captain of the Port Key West area.

Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor. Drawbridges may not be operating when sustained wind speeds reach 35 miles-per-hour or when evacuation is in progress.

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 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.

Hurricane Ike is a very powerful storm. 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 National Hurricane Center’s webpage.

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

For information on the progress of Hurricane Ike and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s web page at the following link – http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/. Information about Coast Guard direction to mariners and activities in anticipation of Hurricane Ike can be found at www.d7stormwatch.com.

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