TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The U.S. Coast Guard has set port conditions to Yankee for Tampa Bay ports in preparation for Tropical Storm Elsa’s arrival.
Setting the port status to Yankee means the Coast Guard for District 7, headquartered in St. Petersburg, expects sustained gale force winds from Elsa, and that those winds will sweep into Tampa Bay within 24 hours.
The Coast Guard describes Port Condition Yankee as:
- Sustained winds from 35-43 miles per hour are possible within 24 hours
- Mariners are reminded that there are no safe havens in the affected facilities
- All ocean-going commercial vessels greater than 500 gross tons must be ready to depart ports and anchorages unless they have made prior arrangements to be moored safely in port
- All ocean-going vessels, barges and pleasure crafts must make plans to depart their ports
- Ocean-going vessels, barges and pleasure crafts are advised to depart early to avoid being blocked by bridges
- Vessels heading for South Carolina, Georgia or Florida that are unable to safely offload and depart the port within eight hours of threatening winds are advised to find alternate ports
Who is affected
Ports under the modified condition include those of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Manatee, and Fort Myers, according to the alert from USCG.
The change of condition makes it so cargo operations that are not associated with storm preparedness are temporarily prohibited.
The Coast Guard Captain of the Port may take additional precautions to make sure ports and waterways are safe. USCG Port Assessment Teams will conduct port surveys.
Mariners can view port updates online at the Coast Guard’s Homeport site.
From the USCG:
“Be advised, Drawbridges in the area may cease operations as early as eight hours prior to the anticipated arrival of sustained gale force winds or when an evacuation is in progress. During lock-down, the bridge is closed, power is turned off, traffic arms may be removed, the control house is secured and the bridge operator is sent to safety.
If and when port condition Zulu is set, meaning sustained gale force winds are expected within 12 hours, vessel movement shall be restricted, and all movements must be approved by the COTP.”Advisory notice from USCG
For more information about how Tropical Storm Elsa is progressing and preparedness tips, USCG recommends visiting National Hurricane Center’s webpage.
Public Safety Messages from USCG
The Coast Guard has provided the following public safety messages ahead of Tropical Storm Elsa:
- 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. Those who are leaving their boats in the water are reminded to remove EPIRBs and to secure life rings, lifejackets and small boats. 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 cautious of coastal flooding. Significant rainfall and tide ranges can impact low areas. Boat bilges can over flow and cause unnecessary water pollution to occur. Paddlecraft, canoes and kayaks should be labeled and pulled well above the water line in anticipation of flooding to avoid unnecessary search and rescue cases of people not in distress.
- 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. Information can be found at the National Hurricane Center’s webpage.
- 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.