MIAMI – Effective 10 a.m. Wednesday, the Coast Guard captain of the port (COTP) set port condition Yankee north of the Seven Mile Bridge in Key West 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 24 hours.
Vessels will be able to move within the port with no restrictions; however mariners are encouraged to proceed with extreme caution. Any requests to arrive or depart the port will be made on a case-by-case basis to be reviewed by the COTP.
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 view the latest port updates on the Coast Guard’s Homeport site.
If and when port condition Zulu is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 12 hours, all vessel movements will be prohibited and all ship-to-shore operations must cease. No vessels will be able to enter or transit within the port without the permission of the COTP.
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 or rescue 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 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 remove EPIRBs and to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not properly secured, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure people are not 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 be prepared 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 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.