Coast Guard urges safety during upcoming hurricane season

MIAMI – The Coast Guard urges mariners and residents living along the coast to plan ahead and prepare for the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which starts Monday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there will be nine to 14 named storms during the 2009 season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

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

As storms approach, the Coast Guard urges the public to be mindful of the following safety tips:

  • Stay informed: The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through local television, radio and the Internet. Boaters can monitor storm progress on VHF channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small-craft advisories and warnings on VHF channel 16.
  • Evacuate as necessary: If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public is urged to heed evacuation 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 and small boats.
  • 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 storms. Swimmers are urged to stay clear of beaches until local officials say the water is safe.

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 for 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 information on hurricane preparedness, please visit the _‘s Web site: hNational Hurricane Center’s Web site.

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