Coast Guard urges south Florida boaters to stay off the water this Labor Day weekend due to Hurricane Gustav

MIAMI – This Labor Day weekend the Coast Guard is encouraging boaters to stay off the water due to the approach of Hurricane Gustav.

Adverse weather effects generated by a hurricane can cover an area hundreds of miles wide. Even those recreational boaters and the maritime industry who fall outside of the direct path of the storm are advised to be cognizant of dangerous weather conditions and take appropriate precautions to stay safe and minimize damage.

Boaters are urged to secure their vessels for Hurricane Gustav. Hurricane Gustav is a category IV hurricane and is expected to strengthen over the next 24 hours. Those who heed the warnings of the Coast Guard and local law enforcement authorities will keep themselves and first responders out of danger.

Boaters should take necessary precautions to ensure their personal safety due to strong gusty winds associated with the outer weather bands of Hurricane Gustav. Heavy seas, significant rain and damaging winds may accompany Hurricane Gustav and present serious dangers to boaters. Rescue and assistance by the Coast Guard and other agencies may be degraded as Hurricane Gustav approaches.

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. Because of the uncertainty of weather movements and related bridge closures, mariners should seek passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of gale force winds. When in doubt, check in advance with the local Coast Guard marine safety office.

This Labor Day weekend, here are a few tips to help mariners protect themselves, their families and their vessels:

* Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat if you know a hurricane is approaching.
* Contact local marinas to ask for advice about securing your vessel. Marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.
* Take action now. The effects of a hurricane can be felt well in advance of the storm itself and can prevent the safe completion of preparations.
* Check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area. Do not rush to your boat. Boaters should not place themselves in danger to get to a boat.
* Do not try to reach your boat if it has been forced into the water and is surrounded by debris. Wait until authorities have made safe access available. Do not try to board a partially sunken boat; seek salvage assistance from a professional.
* More than 600 people died in America as a result of recreational boating accidents in 2007. Many more were injured and millions of dollars worth of property was lost in accidents that probably could’ve been prevented with proper training and equipment.
* Boaters should remember that they are in command and that they may save more than their life by practicing safe boating. They may save the life of someone they love.
* Storms move quickly and are unpredictable. You can make other plans this Labor Day weekend, you cannot replace a life.

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