Coast Guard urges vigilance throughout forecasted storm systems, hazardous sea conditions

LOS ANGELES – The Coast Guard is urging mariners and water enthusiasts to exercise extreme caution in and around coastal California waters throughout the holiday weekend as a result of a series of forecasted storm systems, hazardous surf conditions and potential coastal flooding.

Large waves approaching California have the potential to produce high surf at area beaches. Swells with a peak forecasted height of 20 feet could create dangerous surf conditions and strong rip currents. Large waves have the potential to catch even the most experienced mariner or beach goer off guard, causing disorientation or serious injury. The Coast Guard strongly recommends that individuals avoid taking to the water over the next week or until the seas subside.

If it is necessary to get underway, mariners are urged to check all of their safety equipment to ensure it is in good condition and working properly. All vessels are required to carry lifejackets for each person aboard, sized accordingly. If boaters will be traveling offshore, the carriage of an immersion suit or other full-body protection is strongly recommended; water temperatures will be cold and hypothermia can quickly overtake the average person.

All boaters should also ensure that they have a working marine-band VHF radio to contact the Coast Guard on channel 16 should an emergency arise. The Coast Guard reminds all mariners that channel 16 is an emergency frequency, and should be used for emergency or distress exclusively. Misuse of channel 16 or broadcasting false distress calls can result in prison time, severe fines, and liability for any costs incurred as a result of search efforts.

The Coast Guard also strongly recommends that boaters file a float plan with a friend or family member on land, with an approximate time of return and a planned route of travel. It is recommended that mariners regularly check in with those who are aware of the float plan, especially if those plans change. In addition, the use of an electronic position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) is a simple step that can save your life and the lives of your passengers and crew.

Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water. The Coast Guard and the National Weather Service broadcast marine weather forecasts regularly. Forecasts can be heard by tuning a marine-band VHF radio to channels WX-1 through WX-7 or to channel 22A during scheduled Coast Guard marine information broadcasts at 9:30 a.m., noon, and 4:30 p.m. Further information can be found at the National Weather Service website: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.

The Coast Guard also encourages all boaters to check the status of mooring and anchoring arrangements. During strong winds and heavy seas, vessels can break free from moorings, often a result of worn lines, an insufficient number of lines, or an improperly sized anchor and/or anchor chain. Adrift vessels pose several hazards to nearby people and vessels as they are tossed about, and can also pose environmental risks as any fluids or chemicals aboard can spill or leak. The Coast Guard urges vessel owners and operators to take extra precautions in anticipation of the forecasted storm systems by addressing mooring safety and securing potential sources of marine pollution.

For more information on boating safety and required and recommended safety equipment, please visit www.uscgboating.org.

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