MIAMI — The Coast Guard urges mariners to heed warnings as Tropical Storm Erika is expected to affect South Florida this weekend.
As Tropical Storm Erika approaches, the Coast Guard urges people to be mindful of the following:
– Anticipate bridge closures. Mariners are advised that during strong storms drawbridges along the coast may deviate from the normal operating procedures. Drawbridges are authorized to remain closed upon the approach of gale force winds or higher as stated in the Code of Federal Regulations 117.35, which applies to “natural disasters or civil disorders.” Mariners should anticipate bridge closures by listening to the National Weather Service and Coast Guard broadcasts on the storm conditions.
– Stay off the water. The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities are degraded as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed. Boaters are urged to heed weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories. People should not go out on their boats 48 hours prior to and at least 72-96 hours after a hurricane has passed as debris may be in the water and navigational aids may have shifted.
– Evacuate as necessary. If evacuations are set for an area, the public is urged to heed to those orders. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.
– Secure your 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 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, life jackets, emergency position indicating radio beacons and small boats. These items, if not secured properly, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources to be diverted to ensure people are not in distress.
– Be cautious of hazardous materials. If you have hazardous materials on or near the water, you are responsible for any spills that may occur. Take the necessary precautions to secure them prior to any foul weather.
– Stay clear of beaches. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by hurricanes. Swimmers are urged to wait until local officials say the water is safe.
– Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of Tropical Storm Erika through local television, radio and internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF-FM channel 16. Information can also be obtained on port conditions in South Florida by visiting the Coast Guard’s Homeport Site.
For more information on the progress of Sandy and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s website.