Coast Guard prepares for Hurricane Michael, closes ports

Coast Guard Station Yankeetown crew member Seaman Nicholas Feder hands a sand bag to Fireman Richard Tzoumas-White at the station in preparation for Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. The Coast Guard urges mariners to prepare their boats and heed all local warnings before the storm. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Michael Clark.)

Coast Guard Station Yankeetown crew member Seaman Nicholas Feder hands a sand bag to Fireman Richard Tzoumas-White at the station in preparation for Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Michael Clark.)

YANKEETOWN, Fla. — The Coast Guard set port condition Zulu for northern Florida Gulf Coast ports, Tuesday, and continues to prepare for impacts of Hurricane Michael.

All commercial port operations from Cedar Key to Tarpon Springs are suspended.

Port Condition Zulu is set when gale-force winds are possible within 12 hours. All commercial and recreational vessel operators are urged to seek safe harbor.

Maritime and port facilities are reminded to review and update their heavy weather response plans and make any additional preparations needed to adequately prepare in case of a potential impact to the area.

“Coast Guard Station Yankeetown crew members and all of our crews along Florida’s Gulf Coast are preparing early for the hurricane,” said Cmdr. William Walsh, the Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg deputy commander. “Use this time before the storm to save your property, but more importantly your life.”

Mariners all along Florida’s Gulf Coast are urged to heed all local weather watches, warnings and advisories, and use these tips to stay safe:

Stay off the water. The Coast Guard’s search and rescue capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen. This means help could be delayed.

Evacuate as necessary. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger during the storm. If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public should evacuate without delay.

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. Trailer-able 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.

Stay informed. Monitor your local television, radio and internet sources for storm progress. Storms move quickly and are unpredictable. Boaters can monitor Hurricane Michael’s progress on VHF radio channel 16 including small craft advisories and hazards.

Don’t rely on social media. 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 Michael and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center‘s website.

Visit the Coast Guard’s Sector St. Petersburg Homeport site for port condition updates.

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