As we head into our second weekend break after Hurricane Ian, United States Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are requesting recreational boaters to stay off the water, if at all possible.
“While the initial search and rescue part of the Hurricane Ian response is over, we continue to do work in the areas most impacted, said Petty Officer First Class Ayla Hudson with the U. S. Coast Guard. “So, what we would ask is that the public stay away of the water unless they absolutely have to be out there. And that they stay out of the way of vessels that are directly involved in a response. ”
If boaters must go out, Hudson recommends exercising extreme caution.
“After a storm, a lot of things move around underneath the water, so things aren’t where they originally were before the storm. So, we want people to lookout for hazards that could cause damage to the boat or their propellers and potentially injury. And if these people do come across hazards, they can report that to the Coast Guard or even FWC, ” she stated.
A press release from Florida Fish and Wildlife reiterated that caution. “If you must go on the water, proceed with extreme caution, maintain a safe speed at all times and remember Florida Statutes require all vessel operators to maintain a slow speed (minimum wake) within 300 feet of any emergency vessel when the emergency lights are on. Even if you are familiar with the route and surrounding area, expect to find new underwater hazards, so pay close attention and look out for submerged navigation aids and changes to water depth caused by shifting sands. Storms can cause hazardous water conditions by altering the location and condition of pilings, trees, shoals, sandbars and routing markers. As always, ensure you and any passengers on board are wearing lifejackets. ”
The U. S. Coast Guard, according to a press release, is working hard to support the State of Florida in providing the necessary resources plus services to clean up potential pollution sources in addition to restore waterways and coastal infrastructures like bridges and even piers.
They recommend the below tips to all mariners in heavily damaged areas including Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Pine Island, Naples and Matlacha islands.
- Stay off the water unless you are usually playing a critical role in the response. This is not the time for disaster sightseeing. The Coast Guard other responders are actively engaged in restoring our waterways together with maritime infrastructure. You can help by steering clear.
- Stay out of the way of the boats directly involved in the response. If you need to be on the water, please stay out of the way from the responders and transit at bare steerageway therefore you do not wake out crews working on vessels and additionally barges.
- Buoys, day boards and some other aids to navigation may be off station if shifted by the hurricane. Water depths may be shallower than charted due to shifting sands not to mention shoals. If you encounter an off station buoy or navigational marker, report it to the USCG.
- Beware of construction materials like wood, nails, glass and concrete that may be encountered on beaches and inside canals. Report hazards in order to local lifeguards or beach patrol. If you experience chemicals or oil pollutants in the waterways, statement them to the USCG.
- Be upon the lookout for underwater hazards. The storm surge and high winds displaced and damaged many vessels, which means that sunken boats and other obstacles may be just under the particular surface and will damage your boat, engine or propeller.
- Turn around, don’t drown. Do not intentionally drive your vehicle into flooded or even washed out areas. You may underestimate the depth and become stuck or perhaps damage your vehicle.
- Before operating your own boats and personal watercraft that were exposed to typically the storm, check that your fuel was not spoiled simply by rainwater or seawater which may render them inoperable. Verify your watertight integrity to ensure your hull was not damaged and that will your bilge pumps work before getting underway.
- Be sure you have a new working VHF marine radio and a cell phone with a charged battery within case of emergency.
- If you are on the water, ensure of which you and your passengers are wearing USCG-approved lifejackets.
- For those who evacuated and usually are returning to their homes in impacted areas that are inaccessible due to damaged bridges or roadways, do not pay for an unlicensed boat operator to transport you and your loved ones.
- Always ask for credentials before paying for any waterborne services.
- Do not operate personal unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) around working crews or any low-flying aircraft.
Should local boaters decide to venture out, Hudson urges overall caution.
“Be mindful of where your own vehicle is going. There’s a lot of damaged roadways that will be around water and islands which were impacted. So just you know, if you don’t need to go out there on the water or near the water, please don’t. Stay out of the method of first responders and also if you come across hazards, report it to be able to the appropriate authorities, ” she said.
As a reminder, people in distress should use 911 to request assistance whenever possible, or VHF radio channel 16 for mariners. Social media should not be used for you to report distress.
Report missing or broken waterway markers by calling 866-405-2869 or by filling out an online form at MyFWC. com/boating , by clicking “Waterway Management” then “Waterway Markers” and “Reporting Damaged/Missing Waterway Markers . ”For information on how to help in the response effort, visit Emergency Management – Volunteer Florida .
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