Coast Guard boating safety reminder post-Hurricane Ian

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Seth Hunt conducts rescue operations Oct. 3, 2022 in Matlacha Isles, Florida. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jamie Mealor)

Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Seth Hunt conducts rescue operations Oct. 3, 2022 in Matlacha Isles, Florida. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jamie Mealor)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In the wake of Hurricane Ian’s impact on the Florida peninsula, the Seventh Coast Guard District and Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg are reminding residents and visitors to exercise caution when boating or recreating along the beaches and waterways.

The immediate search and rescue portion of the hurricane response may be over, but the recovery and reconstitution efforts by federal, state and local partners are ongoing.

The Coast Guard is working hard to support the State of Florida in providing the necessary resources and services to clean up potential pollution sources and restore waterways and coastal infrastructures like bridges and piers. We recommend the below tips to all mariners in heavily damaged areas including Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Pine Island, Naples and Matlacha islands.

  • Stay off the water unless you are playing a critical role in the response. This is not a time for disaster sightseeing. The Coast Guard other responders are actively engaged in restoring our waterways and maritime infrastructure. You can help by steering clear.
  • Stay out of the way of the boats directly involved in the response. If you need to be on the water, please stay out of the way of the responders and transit at bare steerageway so you do not wake out crews working on vessels and barges.
  • Buoys, dayboards and other aids to navigation may be off station if shifted by the hurricane. Water depths may be shallower than charted due to shifting sands and shoals. If you encounter an off station buoy or navigational marker, report it to the USCG.
  • Beware of construction materials like wood, nails, glass and concrete that may be encountered on beaches and in canals. Report hazards to local lifeguards or beach patrol. If you encounter chemicals or oil pollutants in the waterways, report them to the USCG.
  • Be on the lookout for underwater hazards. The storm surge and high winds displaced and damaged many vessels, which means that sunken boats and other obstacles may be just under the surface and will damage your boat, engine or propeller.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. Do not intentionally drive your vehicle into flooded or washed out areas. You may underestimate the depth and become stuck or damage your vehicle.
  • Before operating your own boats and personal watercraft that were exposed to the storm, check that your fuel was not spoiled by rainwater or seawater which may render them inoperable. Verify your watertight integrity to ensure your hull was not damaged and that your bilge pumps work before getting underway.
  • Be sure you have a working VHF marine radio and a cell phone with a charged battery in case of emergency.
  • If you are on the water, ensure that you and your passengers are wearing USCG-approved lifejackets.
  • For those who evacuated and are returning to their homes in impacted areas that are inaccessible due to damaged bridges or roadways, do not pay for an unlicensed boat operator to transport you and your loved ones. Always ask for credentials before paying for any waterborne services.
  • Do not operate personal unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) around working crews or any low-flying aircraft.

The best way to help if you are not directly involved in the response it to stay off the water. For information on how to help in the response effort, visit Emergency Management – Volunteer Florida.

As a reminder, people in distress should use 911 to request assistance whenever possible, or VHF radio channel 16 for mariners. Social media should not be used to report distress.

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