On Wednesday, the Coast Guard captain of the port (COTP) set port condition Whiskey for Port Miami, Miami River, Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach, Port of Fort Pierce and all other South Florida terminals and facilities due to the expectation of sustained gale force winds that could arrive as early as Saturday.
These ports and facilities are currently open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue while Whiskey remains in effect.
Sustained winds between 39 and 54 mph are possible within 72 hours. Mariners are reminded there are no safe havens in these facilities, and ports are safest when the inventory of vessels is at a minimum. All ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges greater than 500 gross tons should make plans for departing the port.
Vessels desiring to remain in port must immediately contact the COTP to receive permission and are required to submit a safe mooring plan in writing. Vessels bound for South Florida unable to depart 24 hours prior to threatening winds making landfall are advised to seek an alternate destination.
Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor. Drawbridges may not be operating if sustained winds reach 25 mph or when an evacuation is in progress. Port facilities are advised to review their heavy weather plans and take all necessary precautions to adequately prepare for the expected conditions. Mariners can view the latest port updates on the Coast Guard’s Homeport site.
If and when port condition Yankee is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 24 hours, vessel movement shall be restricted, and all movements must be approved by the captain of the port.
The Coast Guard is advising the public of these important safety instructions:
- 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. Trailer-able boats should be pulled from the water and stored in a place that is not prone to flooding.
- 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.
For information on Hurricane Irma progress and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center‘s webpage.
This article appears courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard News and may be found in its original form here.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.