TAMPA, Fla. – The Coast Guard upgraded port conditions along the Gulf Coast Wednesday due to the expectation of Tropical Storm Hermine to produce gale force winds within 48 hours.
Capt. Holly Najarian, Sector St. Petersburg Captain of the Port, established Port Condition YANKEE for Tarpon Springs and north, and Port Condition X-RAY for the ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Manatee.
Port conditions are a series of escalating measures put in place to keep vessels and ports safe.
Under Port Condition YANKEE a safety zone has been established around the area. All inbound vessel movement is prohibited, all oceangoing commercial vessels greater than 500 gross tons must have departed the ports and anchorages, and cargo operations not associated with storm preparations are prohibited.
Under Port Condition X-RAY, 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 Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg at Stefan.a.Lewis@uscg.mil to receive permission and are required to submit a safe mooring plan in writing. Vessels bound for South Florida unable to depart 24 hours prior to threatening winds making landfall are advised to seek an alternate destination.
Ports, facilities and operators in the ports of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Manatee should anticipate the setting of Port Condition YANKEE. Ports, facilities and operators in Tarpon Springs and north should anticipate the setting of Port Condition ZULU.
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 for Tampa on the Coast Guard’s Homeport site.
The Coast Guard reminds 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.
For information on how to prepare your boat or trailer for a hurricane, please click here.
For information on the progress of Tropical Storm Hermine and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s web site.