District 5 braced for storm with mariners' warning

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Virginia National Guard aviation crews aboard two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters pick up and deliver food, mail and medicine Jan. 6 to icebound Tangier Island, Va.


By Toby Tate

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Some areas of the Albemarle received up to a foot of snow last week, causing treacherous driving conditions and prompting the closures of schools and businesses.

The Elizabeth City Coast Guard base, however, was largely unaffected.

Chief Kip Wadlow, spokesperson for the 5th Coast Guard Distict, said that although the bases were not closed, Ice Condition two was set in Hampton Roads on Jan. 3 before the snow storm hit.

"We just wanted to prevent mariners from going out when adverse weather is impacting the area," he said. "In addition to that, the port was closed for a few days so the severe weather system could move through."

The capes in and around the Cheapeake Bay were also closed to inbound and outbound vessel traffic, and vessel traffic within the port was limited to vessels less than 2,500 gross tons.

According to news releases from the Coast Guard, ice condition two is set when there is significant formation of ice in navigable waters. Ice was reported on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and in the Chesapeake Bay tributaries.

The Coast Guard Cutter Chock, homeported in Baltimore, Md., was also reported to be conducting ice-breaking and other relief efforts in the vicinity of Tangier Island, located in the Chesapeake Bay. According to other news reports, the National Guard delivered supplies to the island on Saturday.

Mariners are requested to use extreme caution when transiting and to report any observation of ice accumulation on navigable waters to the Sector Hampton Roads Command Center on marine radio VHF-FM channel 16 or at 757-668- 6635.

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, Capt. Rick Wester, Sector Hampton Roads captain of the port, delivered a warning to mariners.

“The impending blizzard will cause a variety of maritime hazards, including strong winds, zero visibility, topside icing and heavy seas,” he said. “Mariners should secure their vessels, stow any loose equipment, monitor updates and most importantly, stay off the water.”

Although ice condition two was still in effect on Friday, Jan. 5, Wester reopened the port to all traffic.