Coast Guard Sets Charleston Port Condition X-ray Ahead of Florence

The announcement also warned the public to stay off the water and stay off beaches, and also to evacuate as necessary without delay.

Effective 8 a.m. Sept. 11, the Coast Guard Captain of the Port set port condition X-ray for the Port of Charleston, S.C., and all other terminals and facilities due to the expectation of sustained gale force winds generated by Hurricane Florence that might arrive within 48 hours. Ports and facilities are currently open to all commercial traffic and all transfer operations may continue while X-ray remains in effect.

The announcement said sustained winds between 39 and 54 mph are possible within 48 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," it said. "Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor. Commercial vessel operators authorized by the COTP to remain inside Sector Charleston's harbors and recreational boat owners should ensure their vessels are secure at berth and will not pose a hazard to surrounding vessels, the navigable channel, or the environment. Mariners are reminded that drawbridges may not operate when sustained wind speeds reach 25 mph or when an evacuation is in progress. 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."

If port condition Yankee is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 24 hours, vessel movement will be restricted and all movements must be approved by the respective COTP.

The Coast Guard also is warning the public of these important safety messages:

  • 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. Remove all loose items including EPIRBS. These devices often float free from vessels in marinas or at docks during hurricanes and signal a distress when there is none. Ensure life rings, lifejackets and small boats are secured. These items, if not properly secured, can break free and require valuable search and rescue resources be diverted to ensure people are not in distress.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The announcement noted that "People in distress should use 911 to request assistance whenever possible. Social media should not be used to report life threatening distress due to limited resources to monitor the dozen of social media platforms during a hurricane or large-scale rescue event."

Dr. Michael Boniface, a Mayo Clinic emergency medicine physician, also offered safety tips for those in the path of Florence or evacuating ahead of its arrival. In an article the Mayo Clinic posted Sept. 11, Boniface said addressing health and safety concerns before a storm will help keep you and your family safe during and after severe weather. "It can be easy to get caught up in storm preparations with respect to making sure you have enough food and water, and neglect your personal health care. But taking time to review your personal health needs and add items to your storm supply kit will be valuable," he said.

At a minimum, he recommends arranging a first aid kit with items such as Band-Aids and bandages, gauze, antibiotic ointment, handkerchiefs, and over-the-counter pain relievers and allergy medicine, and for individuals routinely taking prescription medication, checking your inventory before a storm to ensure you have enough to last at least three to 10 days. "If you have medication that requires refrigeration, for instance, consider your plan to keep medications cold and safe. Make sure you have enough ice and proper storage. As well, it is important to find out how the long medication can last at room temperature," he said.

He also advises having copies and easy access to important medical documents, such as health records, health care directives, and living wills, as well as prescription information and a list of medications, health providers and their phone numbers kept in a wallet, purse, and in the emergency kit. "While many people have the information on their cellphones, if your battery runs out, it won't be helpful," he added.

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