Saturday, February 4, 2023

Despite westerly Hurricane Irma path, Coast Guard restricts port, warns small craft ‘seek shelter’

As Hurricane Irma heads west, the US Coast Guard has restricted traffic in and out of the Port of Wilmington, and advised all small craft to seek shelter. (Port City Daily photo / US COAST GUARD)

WILMINGTON — Even as Hurricane Irma tracks to the western edge of North Carolina, the U.S. Coast Guard has now heavily restricted the Port of Wilmington. The Coast Guard initiated “Condition X-Ray,” warning small crafts to “seek safe harbor.”

The decision, issued from the office of the Captain of the Port of North Carolina, restricts pleasure and commercial traffic in and out of the Port of Wilmington; at present, the Coast Guard has only issued a warning-level “Condition Whiskey” for the Port of Morehead City. The decision was made in anticipation of rough seas and possible gale force winds resulting from Hurricane Irma, despite its westerly path.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, gale force winds of 39 mph and above are predicted for areas along the Carolina coast. According to a release from the Coast Guard, boaters are encouraged to avoid travel in and out of area ports if possible.

Boaters are also advised that all area drawbridges will remain closed when wind speeds are above 39 mph; the Coast Guard recommends making alternative route plans, cancelling sailing plans, or completing any voyages “well in advance” of the arrival of gale force winds.

In addition, the Coast Guard has issued the following restrictions:

1. All self-propelled oceangoing vessels over 500 gross tons, all oceangoing barges and their supporting tugs, and all tank barges over 200 gross tons desiring to remain in port, must immediately complete and submit an application for approval, in writing, to the Captain of the Port (COTP).

2. All self-propelled oceangoing vessels over 500 gross tons, all oceangoing barges and their supporting tugs, and all tank barges over 200 gross tons departing the port, must depart not later than six hours prior to the arrival of gale force winds measured at Frying Pan Shoals.

3. Vessels bound for these ports that are unable to depart prior to the arrival of gale force winds at Frying Pan Shoals are advised to seek an alternative destination.

4. Facility Operators should begin making preparations to ensure all loose cargo, cargo equipment, and debris are secured safely.  Notification should be made to the COTP of any heavy weather preparation problems that cannot be mitigated prior to projected arrival of gale force winds.

A vessel remaining in port checklist may be obtained here. Select North Carolina in the Port Directory.  The checklist is located under the “Local Contingency Plans” header.

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