The Coast Guard encourages boaters Tuesday to prepare for severe weather due to Tropical Depression Nine currently impacting the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center reports Tropical Depression Nine may result in a minimum of heavy rain and gusty winds most severely impacting Florida's west coast Thursday. All boaters and beachgoers are strongly encouraged to monitor weather conditions as the depression is expected to develop into a tropical storm.
"We request and strongly urge boaters to closely monitor local weather, heed all warnings and contact emergency responders at the first sign of distress," said Capt. Holly Najarian, Sector St. Petersburg commander. "Going out on the water in severe weather risks your life, passengers' lives and the lives of emergency responders."
Adverse weather effects generated by a tropical storm or hurricane can cover an area hundreds of miles wide. Additionally, recreational boaters and commercial vessels outside of the direct path of the storm are advised to be aware of weather conditions and take appropriate precautions to stay safe.
Drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures prior to a storm. 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.
The following tips are designed to help mariners protect themselves, their families and their vessels:
- Take action now. The effects of a storm can be felt well in advance, and bridge schedules can and often shift from their normal operating schedule. Check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area.
- Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat if you know a storm 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.
- Remove your EPIRB from your vessel and ensure it does not inadvertently activate which could signal a false alert. Furthermore, once the severe weather has passed, mariners are reminded to ensure the EPIRB devices are placed back on their vessels prior to the vessel's next use.
- Do not rush to your boat. Boaters should not place themselves in danger to get to a boat.
- Do not try to board a partially sunken boat. Seek salvage assistance from a professional. Storms move quickly and are unpredictable.
- Know your local and national weather sources and monitor them continuously. Boaters and coastal residents can monitor VHF-FM marine band radio channel 16 for up-to-date storm and hurricane information.