Coast Guard warns boaters of tropical storm impact

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The Coast Guard is urging the maritime community and the boating public to track Tropical Storm Andrea's progress and take early action to protect themselves and their vessels.

Extremely high seas, heavy rains, flooding and damaging winds that accompany tropical storms and hurricanes present serious hazards to mariners.

Dangerous weather conditions generated by a tropical system can cover an area hundreds of miles wide. Even those recreational boaters and members of the maritime industry outside of the direct path of the storm are advised to be aware of threatening weather conditions and take appropriate precautions to stay safe and minimize damage. A tropical system does not have to be a hurricane to be potentially dangerous.

Here are a few tips to help mariners protect themselves, their families and their vessels:

* If local authorities issue an evacuation notice, take heed and know the evacuation routes.

* Do not go out to sea in a recreational boat if you know a tropical system is approaching.

* Contact your local marinas to ask for advice about securing your vessel. Marina operators are knowledgeable and can advise you on the best methods for securing your boat.

* Ensure boating gear is properly stowed or tied down to avoid causing unnecessary searches by the Coast Guard and other first responders. Life jackets, life rafts, and small non-powered vessels are some examples of boating equipment often found adrift following severe weather.

* Take action now. The effects of a tropical system can be felt well in advance of the storm itself and can prevent the safe completion of preparations.

* After the storm passes, check with local authorities before entering any storm-damaged area. Do not rush to your boat - boat owners should not place themselves in danger in order to survey damage.

* 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.

* Stay clear of beaches. Even the best swimmers can fall victim to the strong waves and rip currents. Swimmers are urged to stay clear of beaches until local officials say the water is safe.

Storms move quickly and may be unpredictable. Remember, you can always replace a boat; you cannot replace a life.

Boaters and coastal residents can get storm and hurricane information from VHF marine radios, commercial radio, television stations, newspapers and NOAA weather radios. For more information, visit the National Hurricane Center Web site