USCG Urge Caution Ahead of Hurricane Joaquinby Joseph R. Fonseca
The Coast Guard urges the public Thursday to use extreme caution and to prepare for the onset of heavy weather, extreme sea conditions, storm surge and high surf throughout the Mid Atlantic region as Hurricane Joaquin approaches the coast.
Stay informed: The public should monitor the progress and strength of Hurricane Joaquin through local television, radio and internet.
Information can also be obtained on small craft advisories and warnings on VHF radio channel 16. The National Weather Service predicts off shore conditions to include waves reaching up to 53 feet in height.
Evacuate as directed by state and local officials: If mandatory evacuations are set for an area, the public is urged to heed evacuation orders. Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate those in danger during the storm.
Secure your belongings and EPIRBs: Owners of larger boats are urged to move their boats to inland marinas where they will be less vulnerable to breaking free of their moorings or damage. Trailerable boats and personal watercraft 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 any electronic position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), life jackets and life rings from their boat.
Adrift EPIRBs and loose gear often trigger false alerts with the Coast Guard and ties up resources that could be used for real search and rescue cases.
Mark personal watercraft: Owners of personal watercraft should also mark them with their name and phone number, so if found, the Coast Guard can determine whether or not an individual is in need of rescue.
Stay clear of beaches: Swimmers are urged to stay clear of beaches until local officials say the water is safe. Residents and visitors to the area should heed all warnings from lifeguards and public health and safety officials. Although weather conditions may be good, rip tides and high surf may impact beaches far in advance of the actual storm.
Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and currents caused by storms. Local waters can also become contaminated due to runoff for several days following a storm.
Bridge closures: Mariners are reminded that 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 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 early passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of hurricane force winds.
Be cautious of hazardous materials: If you have hazardous materials on or near the water you are responsible for any spills that may occur. Take the necessary precautions to secure them prior to any foul weather.
The Coast Guard is working closely with local and state first responder agencies. Once the storm begins to impact the region, emergency responders may not be able to immediately assist those in danger until the storm passes.
For information on how to prepare your boat or trailer for a hurricane, please view the following site http://www.uscg.mil/news/stormcenter/.
For information on Hurricane Joaquin's progress and hurricane preparedness, please visit the National Hurricane Center's web page at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/.
Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's site for tips to prepare, plan and stay informed at http://www.ready.gov/.