Coast Guard District 7 urges Hurricane Isaias preparations, mariners to stay off water

Coast Guard Stations Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Lake Worth Inlet 45-foot response boat crews and the Coast Guard Cutter Hudson (WLIC-801) staged at Coast Guard Station Islamorada, Florida in preparation for Hurricane Isaias, Aug. 1, 2020. It is standard procedure for Coast Guard crews to stage assets before a hurricane in order to respond to search and rescue cases after it passes. (Coast Guard Photo)

Coast Guard Stations Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach, and Lake Worth Inlet 45-foot response boat crews and the Coast Guard Cutter Hudson (WLIC-801) staged at Coast Guard Station Islamorada, Florida in preparation for Hurricane Isaias, Aug. 1, 2020.  (Coast Guard Photo)

MIAMI — Coast Guard District 7 Captains’ of the Ports continue to urge mariners to make preparations as Hurricane Isaias will begin to impact Florida’s coastline early Saturday and impact Georgia and South Carolina in the next few days.

One of the Coast Guard’s priorities is safety of life at sea, and mariners are reminded sea state conditions could be above normal limitations beyond a recreational boat and to be cognizant of the Gulf Stream location. Mariners are reminded that Coast Guard and partner agencies are moving first responders and assets to safe locations and the capability to respond during Hurricane Isaias’ impact may be limited. When it is safe to respond, the Coast Guard will assist those in distress.

As Hurricane Isaias impacts District 7, potential hazards include high surf, dangerous rip currents and undertow conditions, heavy wind, heavy rainfall and coastal flooding.

The Coast Guard is warning the public of these important safety messages:

  • Stay off the water. The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed. Boaters should heed weather watches, warnings and small craft advisories.
  • Evacuate as necessary. If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger during the storm.
  • Secure belongings. Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or to sustaining 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 remove EPIRBs and to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. These items, if not properly secured, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure people are not in distress.
  • Stay clear of beaches. Wave heights and currents typically increase before a storm makes landfall. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents caused by hurricanes. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until local lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.
  • Be prepared. Area residents should be prepared by developing a family plan, creating a disaster supply kit, having a place to go, securing their home and having a plan for pets. Information can be found at the National Hurricane Center’s webpage.
  • Stay informed. The public should monitor the progress and strength of the storm through local television, radio and Internet. Boaters can monitor its progress on VHF radio channel 16. Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16.

In preparation for Hurricane Isaias, the Coast Guard recommends:

Preparing for a hurricane on land:

  • If you live or boat in an area prone to hurricanes or heavy weather, know your local and national weather sources and monitor them continuously.
  • Remove small boats from the water and move them to safe locations that aren’t likely to flood.
  • Remove all EPIRBs, life rings, life jackets and loose items. Tie the boat securely to the trailer. Contact local marinas and ask for advice.
  • If your boat is too large to be removed from the water, move it to a safe haven well before the storm approaches. You should know where safe havens are in the area where you boat. Use extra fenders—such as used tires—to protect your boat. Use additional mooring lines, secure all hatches, take down the mast, if possible, and remove all loose items from the vessel. Tie down everything, inside and out.
  • 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 34 knots or greater and whenever an evacuation is ordered. Due to 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.
  • Boaters and coastal residents can get storm and hurricane information from VHF marine radios, commercial radio, television stations, newspapers or NOAA weather radios.
  • Check the Coast Guard Homeport website for an updated status of local ports.
  • Never forget storms move quickly, and they are unpredictable. You can always replace a boat; you cannot replace a life.

Preparing for a hurricane: Vessels in the storm

  • Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat to “ride out” a hurricane. All mariners are advised to stay off the water.
  • If you are unable to evade a storm, wear a life jacket and know how to activate your distress signaling devices. Rescue and assistance by the Coast Guard and other agencies, however, may be severely degraded or unavailable immediately before, during and after a devastating storm.
  • If you are in a vessel and you see signs of bad weather, seek shelter. While en route to shelter, tie down loose objects on the boat and prepare passengers for possible rough water, heavy rains and high winds. Have all aboard put on life jackets, including pets. Do not let passengers below deck remove their life jackets.
  • If you think the boat may sink or capsize, it may be best to keep passengers above deck and attached to safety lines.
  • If you get into trouble, call for help immediately. Ideally, you should have an EPIRB on board in addition to a VHF marine radio. Keep in touch with the Coast Guard or anyone else you can reach so someone knows your location and assistance can be sent if needed and when possible.
  • Carry life rafts on board large vessels. If the vessel sinks, board the life raft, stay with it and tether passengers together. Keep moving slowly to keep circulation and body temperature up and avoid overexertion.

People in distress should use 911 to request assistance whenever possible. Social media should not be used to report life-threatening distress due to limited resources to monitor the dozens of social media platforms during a hurricane or large-scale rescue event.

For information on Hurricane Isaias’ progress and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center‘s webpage.

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