South Florida marinas preparing for storm

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There is lots of good news in South Florida today. Not only does it look like Tropical Storm Ernesto has weakened enough over the past day to prevent it from rapidly intensifying as it spins toward South Florida, but the boating community – boaters and marinas alike – are better prepared for this year’s hurricane season than in prior years.

“Heavy, flooding rainfall on the order of 5 to 10 inches will be the main threat from Ernesto as it grinds over south Florida and the Keys later today and tonight. Ernesto may also spawn a few tornadoes this afternoon and into the overnight hours across South Florida,” reported The Weather Channel in a statement this morning.

In preparation, the Marine Industries Association of South Florida has been working with its members to distribute more Broward Safe Boating Guides – about 25,000 copies – than in recent years, and to encourage boaters to create written hurricane plans, said Frank Herhold, MIASF executive director, in an interview yesterday. Many marinas, in fact, are now requiring such plans of their customers.

Marinas also have the benefit of new legislation that will hopefully allow them to better protect their facilities from the threat of hurricane damage – and to clean-up faster following any such damage.

“The new legislation certainly provides clearer directions to marinas [regarding] steps to safeguard vessels without having to be concerned about liability,” commented Herhold. “Some marinas may be breathing a little easier, but most are hoping the majority of their boats find locations upriver. That’s the purpose of the flotilla plan.”

The Broward Sheriff’s Office and City of Fort Lauderdale Police Marine Unit, in conjunction with MIASF, implemented the Broward Hurricane Flotilla Plan as of 2:00 p.m. yesterday. The Hurricane Flotilla Plan allows boaters seeking safe havens before a hurricane to form groups called flotillas, which are assembled in the Intracoastal Waterway by the Fort Lauderdale Marine Unit and are escorted up the New River by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit, which radios ahead for bridge openings. By limiting bridge openings to times when the greatest number of boats that require openings are present, the plan streamlines and expedites the evacuation process both for boaters and for residents evacuating by land, MIASF explained in a statement yesterday.

While all these preparations may be for naught if Ernesto fails to strengthen as it approaches South Florida, Herhold said the boating industry is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

“We’ve heard that one before,” he concluded, referring to predictions yesterday that Ernesto would likely be “a minimal hurricane.”

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