Coast Guard urges safety during hurricane season

5th Coast Guard District NewsPORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard urges mariners and residents to begin planning and preparing for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, which started today.

For the 2011 hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting anywhere from 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes.

Tropical systems acquire a name when they reach tropical storm strength with sustained winds reaching 39 mph. They become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph and become major hurricanes when winds increase to 111 mph.

As storms approach, the Coast Guard urges people to remember these guidelines:

  • Stay informed: The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through newspapers, the Internet, and local television and radio stations. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF-FM channel 16. Small craft advisories and warnings are also available on VHF-FM channel 16.
  • Evacuate as necessary: Mandatory evacuation orders should be obeyed. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate people in danger during a storm.
  • Secure your boats and boating equipment: Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less likely to break free of their moorings or to be otherwise damaged. Boats that can be trailered should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding. Those mariners who leave their boats in the water are reminded to secure life rings, life jackets and fenders.
  • 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 these materials 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 storms. Swimmers are urged to stay clear of beaches until local officials say the water is safe. Rip currents and undertows can drag swimmers away from their boat or the beach and lead to death by drowning when they attempt to fight the current and become exhausted.

Mariners are reminded that drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures prior to a storm. They are generally authorized to remain closed up to eight hours prior to the approach of gale force winds of 32 mph or greater and whenever an evacuation is ordered. Because of the uncertainty of weather movements and related bridge closures, mariners should seek early passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center’s Web page at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.

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