Coast Guard urges mariners to stay informed for changing weather conditions

MIAMI – Tropical Storm Fay is constantly changing and quickly approaching Florida and the Seventh Coast Guard District wants the maritime community and boating public to prepare early for the impending storm. Those in the path of an approaching storm have an individual responsibility to stay alert, heed warnings and ensure the safety of themselves and their families.

Boaters are reminded drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures prior to a storm. Bridge tenders are generally authorized to close bridges up to eight hours prior to the approach of gale force winds of 34 knots or greater and/or whenever an evacuation is ordered. All bridges in the Florida Keys are currently open but mariners can expect them to close once the storm gets closer to the area.

Due to the uncertainty of storm movements and related bridge closures, mariners should seek early passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds. Mariners are advised to check with the local Coast Guard Sector.

* Sector Key West (305) 292-8727
* Sector Miami (305) 535-8701
* Sector St. Petersburg (727) 824-7506

In the event the storm approaches a mariner’s area, take necessary action to ensure personal safety. Extremely high seas, heavy rains and damaging winds that accompany tropical storms and hurricanes present serious dangers to mariners. If unable to evade a storm, mariners should ensure they are wearing a lifejacket at all times and know how to activate distress signaling devices. Rescue and assistance by the Coast Guard and other agencies, however, may be severely degraded or unavailable immediately before, during and after a devastating storm.

Aids to navigation, particular lighted and unlighted buoys, may be moved from their charted positions, extinguished, destroyed or otherwise made inoperative as a result of severe storms. Mariners should not rely completely upon the position or operation of a navigational aid but should employ all other methods of determining position as may be available.

Remember, the adverse weather effects generated by a hurricane can cover an area hundreds of miles wide. Even boaters and maritime industry who fall outside the direct path of a storm are advised to be cognizant of these dangerous weather conditions and take appropriate precautions to stay safe and minimize damage.

Some tips from the Coast Guard on preparing for a hurricane:

* There are no designated safe harbors in the state of Florida.
* Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat to “ride out” a hurricane.
* Contact local marinas to seek advice for securing vessels. Marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise on the best methods for securing boats.
* Take action now. The effects of a hurricane can be felt well in advance of the storm itself and can prevent the safe completion of preparations.
* Check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area. Do not rush to check on vessels. Boaters should not place themselves in danger to check on a boat.
* Do not try to reach boats forced into the water and surrounded by debris. Wait until authorities have made safe access available. Do not try to board a partially sunken boat. Seek salvage assistance from a professional.

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