Coast Guard to close Port of Key West at midnight Thursday

KEY WEST, Fla. – Coast Guard units throughout South Florida are preparing for Tropical Storm Bonnie. In accordance with the Coast Guard’s South Florida Hurricane Plan, the Captain of the Port of Key West will set Port Readiness Condition Zulu and close the port of Key West beginning midnight Thursday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Bonnie.

Elements of the Coast Guard Port Readiness Condition – Zulu include:

  • This condition is set when gale force winds of 54 miles per hour from a tropical storm or hurricane are expected to arrive at the port within 12 hours.
  • The Captain of the Port has established a Safety Zone prohibiting vessels greater than 500 gross tons from moving within the Port of Key West as of midnight.
  • Waterfront facilities and marinas shall remove potential flying debris, hazardous materials and oil hazards form dockside areas.
  • All oceangoing commercial vessels greater than 500 gross tons must depart the port.
  • Vessels greater than 500 gross tons bound for this port must seek an alternate destination.

This Port Condition also impacts bridge operations – Vessels with height restrictions should plan accordingly as the following bridges will be locked in the down position:

  • The Snake Creek bridge and Boot Key Harbor Bridge will be locked in the closed to navigation (down) position commencing at 8 a.m. Friday.

The Captain of the Port will provide updates as needed and may be reached at 305-289-8727 or via Channel 16 VHF FM marine radio through Coast Guard Sector Key West.

The Coast Guard recommends that boaters take the necessary precautions to secure their vessel and reconsider plans to get underway.  Severe weather is expected Friday and may carry into Saturday.

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 are urged to heed to weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories.
  • Secure your belongs. 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 damage. Smaller 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, life jackets 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 and low-lying areas. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by severe weather. Swimmers are urged to stay clear of beaches until local officials say the water is safe. Residents are encouraged to heed to local evacuation warnings and orders because localized flooding can sometimes be associated with large amounts of rain.
  • Stay informed.The public should monitor the progress and strength of Tropical Storm Bonnie through local television, radio and internet. The National Weather Service (NWS) broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly.  The forecast can be heard by tuning into channels one through five on VHF marine radios or by checking the NWS webpage at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.

Boaters in Distress can contact the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 or dial directly to -305-292-8727.

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