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USCG: Storm Center

Storm Warnings

Storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings are issued by NOAA's National Hurricane Center. Boaters and coastal residents can get storm and hurricane information from VHF marine radios, commercial radio and television stations and newspapers, or NOAA weather radios.

In some areas, warning flags are flown to warn boaters of dangerous weather conditions

Information:

Agencies:

Small Craft Advisory:

Gale Warning:
Storm Warning:

Hurricane Warning:
To alert mariners to sustained (more than two hours) weather or sea conditions, either present or forecast, that might be hazardous to small boats. The threshold conditions for the Small Craft Advisory are usually 18 knots of wind (less than 18 knots in some dangerous waters) or hazardous wave conditions. A warning of winds within the range of 39 – 54 mph (34 – 47 knots). Gale warnings may precede or accompany a hurricane watch. A warning of winds within the range of 55 – 73 mph (48 – 63 knots). A warning that indicates that hurricane winds of 74 mph (64 knots) and higher, or a combination of dangerously high water and rough seas, are expected to impact a specified coastal area. When a hurricane warning is announced, hurricane conditions are considered imminent and may begin immediately, or at least within the next 12 to 24 hours. When a warning is announced, it is of utmost importance that precautionary measures are taken for protection of life and property.

National Hurricane Center (NHC) advisory terms

  • Advisory: Weather advisory messages are issued for tropical storms and hurricanes. An advisory states the location, intensity, direction of travel, and speed of a tropical storm or hurricane.
  • Bulletin: A weather bulletin is a public release made during periods between advisories, announcing the latest details on the storm or hurricane.
  • Hurricane: A violent storm originating over tropical waters, with winds near its center reaching 74 mph and higher. In size, the storm may range from 50 to 1,000 miles in diameter.

Saffer/Simpson Hurricane Scale

Used by the National Weather Service
Category
Height of Storm Surge Above Normal (ft)
Wind (mph)
Central Pressure (inch Hg)
One (1)
4-5
74-95
Greater than 28.94
Two (2)
6-8
96-110
28.50-28.91
Three (3)
9-12
111-130
27.91-28.47
Four (4)
13-18
131-155
27017-27.88
Five (5)
Over 18
Over 155
Less than 27.17


How do I prepare my boat, trailer or myself before a hurricane?

  • If you live or boat in an area prone to hurricanes or heavy weather, know your local and national weather sources and monitor them continuously. Get into the habit of reading weather signs and monitoring the weather.
  • Contact local marinas and ask for advice. You will find marina operators knowledgeable and helpful. They can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.
  • Remove small boats from the water and move them to a secure location. Ensure the trailer and boat are secured above likely flood areas. Remove all loose items. Ensure the boat is tied securely to the trailer.
  • If your boat is too large to be removed from the water,  move it to a safe haven well before the storm approaches. You should know where safe havens are in the area where you boat.

Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat to "ride out" a hurricane.

  • If you are unable to move your boat contact local marinas for advice.
  • Some steps that may be taken are:
    • Use extra fenders. Some people even lash used tires to boats to protect them.
    • Double up and secure mooring lines.
    • Secure all hatches and portals and cover windscreens.
    • Take down mast whenever possible.
    • Remove all loose items from decks and superstructure and from area around mooring. Leave nothing unsecured.
  • Never forget that storms move quickly and they are unpredictable. You can always replace a boat; you can not replace a life.

What if I get caught out in a storm?

View video of the sailing vessel Osiris being rescued from a storm in 1994.
  • At the first sign of heavy weather seek shelter. While enroute, secure boat and prepare passengers for possible rough water, heavy rains and high winds: have all aboard put on life jackets.
  • Do not let passengers below deck remove life jackets. If you think the boat may sink, it may be best not to have passengers below deck at all; keep them above deck and attached to safety lines.
  • If you get into trouble, call for help immediately. Keep in touch with the Coast Guard or anyone else you can reach so someone knows your location and assistance can be sent if needed.
  • Coast Guard frequencies are Channel 16 VHF/FM or 2182 MHZ. Do not use or rely on cellular phones in place of a radio. Use them only as a backup system.
  • If your boat swamps, stay with it. Once in water, tether passengers together and keep moving slowly to keep circulation and body temperature up. Moving quickly can over-exert you.
  • If the boat is large and may sink, you should be carrying life rafts. Board life rafts and stay with them. Huddling together will help keep body temperature up to help prevent hypothermia.

What should I do following a hurricane and where can I get information

Download Video of Hurricane Damage
  • Check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area. Do not rush down to your boat. Boaters should not place themselves in danger to get to a boat.
  • Do not try to enter damaged boathouses until authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Do not try to reach your boat if it has been forced into the water and is surrounded by debris. Wait until authorities have made safe access available.
  • Do not try to board a partially sunken boat; seek salvage assistance from a professional.
  • If a boat has been washed inland and is stranded, do not approach it until authorities say it is safe to approach. There may electrical (or power) lines, harmful debris, dangerous wildlife in area.
  • Do only what safety and authorities permit.
  • Watch out for and report oil, gasoline or chemical spills to the Coast Guard and local emergency agencies.
  • Information can be found from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), your insurance company, and local authorities.
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