As we head into our second weekend after Hurricane Ian, the United States Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are asking boaters to stay out of the water, if possible. .

“While the initial search and rescue portion of the response to Hurricane Ian is complete, we continue to work in the hardest hit areas,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Ayla Hudson. “So what we’re asking is that the public stay out of the water unless they absolutely have to. And that they stay clear of vessels that are directly involved. in a reply.”

If boaters must go out, Hudson recommends extreme caution.

“After a storm a lot of things move underwater, so things are not where they were originally before the storm. So we want people to watch out for hazards that could damage the boat or their propellers and potentially injure And if they come across any danger, they can report it to the Coast Guard or the FWC,” she said.

A press release from Florida Fish and Wildlife reiterated this caution. “If you must go on the water, proceed with extreme caution, maintain a safe speed at all times, and remember Florida law requires all vessel operators to maintain a slow speed (minimum wake) at less than 300 feet from any emergency vessel when the emergency lights are on Even if you are familiar with the route and the surrounding area, expect to find new underwater hazards, so be extra careful and watch out for submerged navigational aids and changes in water depth caused by shifting sands the location and condition of pilings, trees, shoals, sandbars and navigational beacons. always, make sure you and all passengers on board are wearing life jackets.

The U.S. Coast Guard, according to a news release, is working hard to help the state of Florida provide the resources and services needed to clean up potential sources of pollution and restore waterways and coastal infrastructure like bridges and piers. .

They recommend the tips below to all sailors in heavily damaged areas, including Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Pine Island, Naples, and the Matlacha Islands.

  • Stay out of the water unless you play a vital role in the response. Now is not the time for disaster tourism. Other Coast Guard stakeholders are actively involved in restoring our waterways and marine infrastructure. You can help by staying away.
  • Stay away from boats directly involved in the response. If you must be on the water, please stay clear of responders and transit through bare steerage so as not to wake crews working on ships and barges.
  • Buoys, day signs, and other navigational aids may be out of station if moved by the hurricane. Water depths may be shallower than charted due to shifting sands and shoals. If you encounter an off-station buoy or navigational marker, report it to the USCG.
  • Beware of construction materials such as wood, nails, glass and concrete that can be encountered on beaches and in canals. Report hazards to local lifeguards or beach patrol. If you encounter chemicals or petroleum pollutants in waterways, report them to the USCG.
  • Be on the lookout for underwater dangers. Storm surge and high winds have moved and damaged many ships, which means sunken boats and other obstacles can lie just below the surface and will damage your boat, engine or propeller.
  • Turn around, don’t drown. Do not intentionally drive your vehicle through flooded or washed-out areas. You could underestimate the depth and get stuck or damage your vehicle.
  • Before using your own boats and watercraft that have been exposed to storms, check that your fuel has not been altered by rainwater or seawater which could render them unusable. Check your watertightness to make sure your hull hasn’t been damaged and your bilge pumps are working before setting out.
  • Make sure you have a working VHF marine radio and a cell phone with a charged battery in case of an emergency.
  • If you’re on the water, make sure you and your passengers wear USCG-approved life jackets.
  • For those who have evacuated and are returning home to affected areas that are inaccessible due to damaged bridges or roadways, don’t pay for an unlicensed boat operator to transport you and your loved ones.
  • Always ask for credentials before paying for waterborne services.
  • Do not use personal unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) near work crews or low-flying aircraft.

If local boaters decide to venture out, Hudson urges general caution.
“Be aware of where your vehicle is going. There are a lot of damaged roads around the water and the islands that have been affected. So you know, if you don’t need to get out on the water or near water, please don’t ‘t. Stay away from first responders and if you encounter any hazards, report it to the proper authorities,” she said.

As a reminder, those in distress should use 911 to call for help where possible, or VHF radio channel 16 for sailors. Social media should not be used to report distress.

Report missing or damaged waterway markers by calling 866-405-2869 or by filling out an online form at MyFWC.com/boating, clicking “Waterway Management”, then “Waterway Markers” and “Reporting Damaged/ Missing Waterway Markers”. on how to help in the response effort, visit Emergency Management – Volunteer in Florida.

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