Hurricane season SAFE HARBOR
STAMFORD — As the hurricane season hits its stride, with a major storm pummeling the southern East Coast, maritime managers and harbormasters across the region are urging boat owners to take bad weather seriously.
Depending on its track, Connecticut could face the remnants of Hurricane Florence, but no matter where the storm proceeds, officials say it should be a reminder for boaters to take steps to ensure property and lives are safe.
“We’re asking residents not to be complacent,” said Ted Jankowski, Stamford’s public safety director who spent part of this week meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers at the city’s hurricane barrier to prepare for the storm.
Florence, a Category 2 hurricane, is expected to produce “catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds” this weekend in the Carolinas, according to the National Weather Service.
Jankowski does not expect Stamford to be hit hard by the storm, but warned for boaters and residents to remain vigilant.
“We could be in a dire situation very quickly,” he said.
Greenwich Harbormaster Ian Macmillan assembled a safety checklist for boaters after consulting with other harbormasters and experts in the region.
“Recreational boaters, I want to give them something to think about. Hopefully, it will stimulate some thought,” Macmillan said. “Especially, due to the fact that one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded is bearing down on us.”
Heavy-weather preparations should be routine regardless if “a major hurricane is in the news,” he said.
“These actions should be practiced as a standard, since unnamed and unpredicted storms can also cause significant damage,” he said.
Peter Manion, general manager of Hinckley Yacht Services in Stamford, said about 12 people contacted him this week about removing their boats, but all of them changed their mind when the Connecticut forecast improved.
After a pleasant weekend with sunny skies and temperatures around 80 degrees, there is only a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday in Stamford.
‘Ahead of the curve’
Capt. Michael Bagley, director of marine operations for Soundwaters in Stamford, said the organization will remove all of its boats from the water next week.
He advised other boaters to do the same as hurricane season ramps up. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30 with the greatest threats to Connecticut between mid-August and mid-October.
“I hope some folks look at it and say, ‘I’m going to get ahead of the curve,”’ he said.
Bagley urges boaters to have a plan to move their vessels in the days before a major storm is expected.
Bagley said those whose boats remain in the water should protect them by removing sails, adding dock lines and chafing gear, among other mitigation tactics.
Manion said emergency plans often depend on the size and cost of the boat.
“It depends on how much they got invested in their toy,” he said. “If it’s a $1 million toy, you’re going to have a plan.”
Some boaters have a way of taking unnecessary risks, local marina workers say. At the Harbor Point Marina in New Haven, manager Mark Hampson has seen plenty of boaters who are over-confident and under-prepared for serious weather.
“I remember one time, the forecast said we’d get storms from 2 to 3 p.m. This one guy, he went out at 1:30,” Hampson recalled. The man damaged his boat in heavy seas, and was not wearing a life jacket when he returned.
“Foolhardy,” Hampson noted.
Frank Gulia, a manager at the Cedar Marina in Bridgeport, said he always offers casual safety reminders to people when he’s out on the docks.
“How’s your batteries? How’s your radio? Do you have your flares?” Gulia will ask when chatting with boaters.
“It’s a conversation we try to have. You can get people to think without lecturing them.”
The U.S. Coast Guard warns boaters of the extreme weather that often occurs during the fall.
“Always keep an eye on the forecast, keep your safety gear intact and file a ‘float plan’ — let a friend or spouse know where you’re going and when you’ll be back,” said Petty Officer Hunter Medley, a Coast Guard spokesman. “Be especially aware of the weather — be cognizant of how the weather can change pretty quickly this time of year.”