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Old 08-03-2020, 10:18 PM   #1
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South Fla Bridges Closed Without Notice on 7/31/20

A friend of mine got into unpleasant situation while making his way from Lake Boca southbound on ICW, last Friday (7/31/20). Next thing you know, Camino Real bridge was in closed position and not responding. He decided to go on the outside and come in via Hilsboro Inlet. Upon arrival, he got caught with another surprise, that bridge was closed and not responding as well. Based on the radio traffic he realized that there were several bridges closed as well.

He manged to find an alternative, but was under some stress due to rough seas and said that number sailing vessels were seeking shelter and couldn't come in due to bridges being closed.

This begs the question, why were the bridges closed without any advanced announcements and if they made any, where would you obtain that info, other then calling each bridge directly?

I scanned latest LNM: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07302020.pdf

and here's the only info I could find.

"Drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures. Drawbridges are authorized to remain closed upon approach of
Gale Force winds of 34 knots or greater. Extended closure periods may be authorized up to 8 hours prior to arrival of Gale Force winds to
facilitate evacuation of land traffic. Due to the uncertainty of hurricane movements and bridge closures, mariners are urged to seek passage
through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of Gale Force winds."

Those that are not from the area, Tropical storm Isaias was expected to make landfall on Sat evening. So, if the situation took place on Fri early afternoon, that's more than 24hrs prior expected landfall.

When arrived to a FTL city marina, my friend talked to few people, including a local CG guy and everyone was stumbled about the event.

Does anyone know what happened? What are we missing in this puzzle? Is there another policy (other than what's posted in LNM) which states that bridges should close much more in advance than 8hrs?
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Old 08-04-2020, 02:16 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex F View Post
A friend of mine got into unpleasant situation while making his way from Lake Boca southbound on ICW, last Friday (7/31/20). Next thing you know, Camino Real bridge was in closed position and not responding. He decided to go on the outside and come in via Hilsboro Inlet. Upon arrival, he got caught with another surprise, that bridge was closed and not responding as well. Based on the radio traffic he realized that there were several bridges closed as well.

He manged to find an alternative, but was under some stress due to rough seas and said that number sailing vessels were seeking shelter and couldn't come in due to bridges being closed.

This begs the question, why were the bridges closed without any advanced announcements and if they made any, where would you obtain that info, other then calling each bridge directly?

I scanned latest LNM: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07302020.pdf

and here's the only info I could find.

"Drawbridges along the coast may deviate from normal operating procedures. Drawbridges are authorized to remain closed upon approach of
Gale Force winds of 34 knots or greater. Extended closure periods may be authorized up to 8 hours prior to arrival of Gale Force winds to
facilitate evacuation of land traffic. Due to the uncertainty of hurricane movements and bridge closures, mariners are urged to seek passage
through drawbridges well in advance of the arrival of Gale Force winds."

Those that are not from the area, Tropical storm Isaias was expected to make landfall on Sat evening. So, if the situation took place on Fri early afternoon, that's more than 24hrs prior expected landfall.

When arrived to a FTL city marina, my friend talked to few people, including a local CG guy and everyone was stumbled about the event.

Does anyone know what happened? What are we missing in this puzzle? Is there another policy (other than what's posted in LNM) which states that bridges should close much more in advance than 8hrs?
I don't know what time he was cruising or the details. However, originally, the storm was expected to impact the area Friday night and early Saturday morning. Friday night it was already in the Bahamas. Saturday the forecast was for 41 mph winds with 75 mph gusts.

I found the information, that Fort Lauderdale locked the bridges down at 3 pm on August 31. Supposedly they'd said they were locking down at 10 pm. So there were several people caught.

There were complaints in Miami that bridges on the Miami River locked down at 1 pm. The CG said they were scheduled for 10 pm when contacted.

A word of advice. You never know when bridges will be locked down so it's really imperative to get beyond them as soon as possible. I know captains here who had boats to move up the New River and they made sure to move all on Thursday. I also know one that had to be moved from Palm Harbor in Palm Beach County and they were told early Friday morning that the bridges there would close at 4 pm.

People get caught by closures every time and the plan can change at any time.

We were debating closing businesses early on Friday, but followed the storm and did not. We didn't open anything other than Hardware stores on Saturday however.
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Old 08-04-2020, 02:24 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Alex F View Post

Does anyone know what happened? What are we missing in this puzzle? Is there another policy (other than what's posted in LNM) which states that bridges should close much more in advance than 8hrs?
Yes, what you're missing in the puzzle is that the cities and the bridge tenders may decide to close anytime they choose. Let's say they closed at 3 pm on Friday and follow your 8 hour thinking, who is to say they wouldn't have tropical storm winds by 11 pm? They also don't want to inconvenience drivers trying to get home or to evacuate. I don't know what the traffic was like at that time on Friday, but if it was backing up on them, they might have closed because of that.

I think they were premature, but the one thing they don't want to risk is having it in the open position when winds hit. Friday morning and early afternoon the forecast was sooner and far worse than the real hit was. The hurricane then came to a virtual stop over Andros and stayed off shore.
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Old 08-04-2020, 05:16 AM   #4
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I do not think bridges can be closed at "any time they choose"...unless a pre-existing permission from the USCG exists, then they can if they can substantiate meeting that condition. Changing bridge procedures is a pretty involved process.

I think one of the situations is "a declared state of emergency"..... so as soon as the governor declares one, I believe local bridge authorities can start shutting down and I bet LNMs aren't required....

The other would be measured wind speed....but I am not sure where that info comes....some bridges I know use the NOAA forecasts/reports but cant bsay if others dont lick their finger and stick it out a window. Some bridge tenders seem like they and the town are doing boaters a favor for opening at all.
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Old 08-04-2020, 06:19 AM   #5
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Bridges here in Biloxi have a preset plan they go into during pre storm time. They open every 2-3 hours for marine traffic and stay closed (no matter how many boats are waiting) until the preset time. The do not respond to the VHF to answer the same questions over and over but local news informs us of the schedule.
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Old 08-04-2020, 08:02 AM   #6
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West coast FL ICW bridges always close if winds are near 40 mph except for bridges from the gulf that always remain in the open ( upright) position for the duration. This is so that barrier islands are able to evacuate and be served by emergency vehicles but also allow any vessel offshore to reach safe harbor.
When storms approach experienced people make their preparations well in advance because many unexpected things can happen. Your friend now understands that.
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Old 08-04-2020, 10:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by BandB View Post
I don't know what time he was cruising or the details. However, originally, the storm was expected to impact the area Friday night and early Saturday morning. Friday night it was already in the Bahamas. Saturday the forecast was for 41 mph winds with 75 mph gusts.

I found the information, that Fort Lauderdale locked the bridges down at 3 pm on August 31. Supposedly they'd said they were locking down at 10 pm. So there were several people caught.

There were complaints in Miami that bridges on the Miami River locked down at 1 pm. The CG said they were scheduled for 10 pm when contacted.

A word of advice. You never know when bridges will be locked down so it's really imperative to get beyond them as soon as possible. I know captains here who had boats to move up the New River and they made sure to move all on Thursday. I also know one that had to be moved from Palm Harbor in Palm Beach County and they were told early Friday morning that the bridges there would close at 4 pm.

People get caught by closures every time and the plan can change at any time.

We were debating closing businesses early on Friday, but followed the storm and did not. We didn't open anything other than Hardware stores on Saturday however.
Thank you for some details.

My fiend confirmed that bridges were closed by 2pm on Friday and I'm referring to those in Boca area, which is even further north.

What I'm learning here is that there's a difference in timing on how people track the storms. Would you know what source the bridges are using as an official baseline? And when you say "...Supposedly they'd said they were locking down at 10 pm..." was this someone calling them by a phone/VHF or is there more of an official form of an announcement that can be followed in the future?

I also think that when you say that bridges can close any time, it's very possible, but they're being directed by a local government authorities. I doubt that an individual bridge operator has that kind of an authority.
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Old 08-04-2020, 10:23 AM   #8
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This kind of political BS when locals decide when to close bridges (and other important things) without notice and not on a predictable schedule.


Need to call our politicians, including the governor and US representatives and insist that this doesn't happen again.


We had that crap here in St. Pete during Irma, when they closed our local airport 3 DAYS before the storm would arrive and PADLOCKED THE GATES! I called the head of the commission and she had a sheriff meet me to unlock the gates a day and a half before the storm.... calm winds and sunny skies.

I would have rammed the fence to get my plane out of there. (ya, probably end in jail but worth it if we had a surge).



What the heck are these people thinking!
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Old 08-04-2020, 01:33 PM   #9
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I do not think bridges can be closed at "any time they choose"...unless a pre-existing permission from the USCG exists, then they can if they can substantiate meeting that condition. Changing bridge procedures is a pretty involved process.

I think one of the situations is "a declared state of emergency"..... so as soon as the governor declares one, I believe local bridge authorities can start shutting down and I bet LNMs aren't required....

The other would be measured wind speed....but I am not sure where that info comes....some bridges I know use the NOAA forecasts/reports but cant bsay if others dont lick their finger and stick it out a window. Some bridge tenders seem like they and the town are doing boaters a favor for opening at all.
By "Any time they choose" I was talking about in the case of a hurricane or storm situation, in this case where a state of emergency had been declared. At that point they are free to do as they wish. They coordinate with the CG but the city ultimately makes the decision.

The city and bridge tenders consider the primary purpose of the bridges to be traffic on them, with traffic under them secondary. They are very quick to close sometimes when wind speed is elevated or expected to be which is a circumstance in which they have pre-agreed authorization. The one thing the city and tender most want to avoid is getting a bridge stuck in the open position.

Local captains are very cognizant of their practices and move boats earlier to be sure they'll be able to. Generally if one calls them they'll find out what the plans are. This is a common problem and it would be better if notice was better given.
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Old 08-04-2020, 01:41 PM   #10
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This kind of political BS when locals decide when to close bridges (and other important things) without notice and not on a predictable schedule.

Actually for those of us who live here, this really wasn't unpredictable. Storm coming Friday night, expect bridges to close during the day.

It's a judgement call based on anticipated wind and generally considers worse case scenario.

The only captains I'm aware of who intentionally were moving a boat around near that time was a boat owner who had his boat in Palm Beach and was told to remove it by 11:00 AM on that morning. He must have been a transient because generally it's illegal to make a slip holder leave a marina in FL for a hurricane. His only problem was finding a Captain available on short notice on Friday.
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Old 08-04-2020, 05:20 PM   #11
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Here at Port Canaveral the lock and bridges were ordered closed by the Port Captain (Federal Port), whennthe port was closed ahead of the storm.
We were at a marina on the seaward side of the lock and moved under the yhreat of a $6000 per day fine for remaining. The notice was first posted only onbyhe Ports' web site.
Other cities, bridge authorities, and marinas may follow the lead of the Ports.
We found a great hurricane hole on the Banana River, Marker 24 Marina, slept through the storm, and are getting our MFD navigation display replaced now.
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Old 08-04-2020, 06:35 PM   #12
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From Florida DOT on bridges....

"Primary jurisdiction to regulate drawbridges over the navigable waters of the United States is vested in the United States Coast Guard. ... Such bridges owned and operated by the State of Florida have been constructed and are maintained and operated by permit from the United States Coast Guard."
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Old 08-04-2020, 06:45 PM   #13
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A few months ago we were cruising north offshore to Clearwater and heard an ICW bridge tender on VHF 9 telling boats that the bridge had malfunctioned with unknown repair time. Although it seems like the USCG would notify on VHF 16/22 no mention was made.
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Old 08-04-2020, 06:47 PM   #14
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Having a boat on the Miami River I have seen the bridges lock down before a hurricane (high winds) arrive. There was a stated time in hours that they would close to boat traffic and I have known of boats getting caught between bridges for those who didn’t move early enough. I had numerous boaters offer me huge amount of money to tie up to my dock and it hurt me to turn them away and send them further up river. Plan early and act early.
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