Now that Hurricane Arthur is tracking up the East Coast of the U.S., it might be a good reminder that storms aren’t to be taken lightly, especially when out at sea.
The United States Coast Guard (USCG) includes hurricane information in its Notice to Mariners, which is a good reminder of the advice and different warnings you could see over the season.
Below is the content from the USCG Notice to Mariners.
The hurricane season extends from June 1st through November 30th. Hurricanes can cause excessive damage to vessels and loss of life. To minimize these dangers, the following precautions should be taken by all mariners before getting underway during the hurricane season:
(a) Instruction of crew and passengers in location of emergency equipment and emergency procedures;
(b) Pre-sailing check of vessel, machinery and equipment for seaworthiness;
(c) Installation of strong ground tackle;
(d) Review of storm center evasion procedures;
(e) Knowledge of nearest hurricane shelter or port; and
(f) Constant radio watches on channel 16 VHF-FM and frequent monitoring of weather broadcasts.
The civilian hurricane warning service for the North Atlantic is provided by the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The center collates ship, aircraft, radar and satellite data to produce and issue tropical cyclone warnings and forecasts for the North Atlantic Ocean, including the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. A Tropical Cyclone Public Advisory (TCP) is issued every six hours, with intermediate bulletins provided as needed. For tropical storms and hurricanes threatening to cross the U.S. coast, coastal warnings are issued to the public so that precautionary actions, including evacuation, can be initiated to minimize damage and loss of life.
1. Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 km/hr) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours in association with a tropical, subtropical or post-tropical cyclone.
2. Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that sustained winds of 34 to 63 knots (39 to 73 mph or 63 to 118 km/hr) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours in association with a tropical, subtropical or post-tropical cyclone.
3. Hurricane Watch: An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are possible within the specified area in association with a tropical, subtropical or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
4. Hurricane Warning: An announcement that sustained winds of 64 knots (74 mph or 119 km/hr) or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical, subtropical or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
Additional information of interest to mariners is included in the Tropical Cyclone Forecast/Advisory (TCM) and the Tropical Cyclone Surface Wind Speed Probabilities (PWS) products. The TCM provides current and forecast storm positions, intensities and wind fields out to 120 hours. The PWS provides probabilities of sustained wind speeds equal to or exceeding 34-, 50- and 64-knot wind speed thresholds for select coastal and offshore locations.
Port and Waterway Conditions
Mariners are reminded that aids to navigation, particularly lighted and unlighted buoys, may be moved from charted position, damaged, destroyed, extinguished or otherwise deemed discrepant as a result of hurricanes and storms. Mariners should not rely solely upon the position or operation of an aid to navigation, but also employ such other methods of determining position as may be available. Port Hurricane Conditions are set up by the COTP and will change as the threat of severe weather increases, or as a storm approaches a specific COTP Area of Responsibility. For COTP-specific Port Hurricane Conditions, you should review information provided under the Port Directory tab of http://homeport.uscg.mil.
Port Condition Alerts
Condition 4 – Hurricane Seasonal Alert. 1 June–30 November; port status: open.
Condition Whiskey – Sustained Gale Force winds associated with Tropical Cyclone activity are predicted within 72 hours; port status: open.
Condition X-Ray – Sustained Gale Force winds associated with Tropical Cyclone activity are predicted within 48 hours; port status: open.
Condition Yankee – Sustained Gale Force winds associated with Tropical Cyclone activity are predicted within 24 hours; port status: restricted; vessel/facility control measures in effect.
Condition Zulu – Sustained Gale Force winds associated with Tropical Cyclone activity are predicted within 12 hours; port status: closed to all vessel traffic and waterside activities except for activities approved by the COTP.
Drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures. Drawbridges are authorized to remain closed upon approach of Gale Force winds of 34 knots or greater. Extended closure periods may be authorized up to eight hours prior to arrival of Gale Force winds to facilitate evacuation of land traffic. Due to the uncertainty of hurricane movements and bridge closures, mariners are urged to seek passage through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of Gale Force winds.