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Cuts Won’t Halt the Hoisting of Small-Craft Warning Flags

Times Staff Writer

The National Weather Service’s recent decision to stop calling local harbors with small-craft storm warnings will mean at least one harbor agency has to monitor the radio more closely. But, authorities say, boaters still will be able to rely on the agencies, which will continue to hoist warning flags.

“This just means we’ll need to keep a little closer track along the weather station channel,” said Sgt. John Liddle of the Mission Bay Lifeguard Service’s Boating Safety Unit. “In the past, we’ve relied on the telephone call to give us that information. It makes us do one more step or two more steps, but there’s no problem with that.”

Last month, the National Weather Service ended its 100-year tradition of telephoning local harbors to advise them to raise flags warning boaters of winds of up to 25 knots. A spokeswoman for the weather service in Silver Spring, Md., said the decision was prompted by a cutback in personnel and because the service wanted to make boaters more responsible for finding out weather conditions themselves.

Although Mission Bay boaters will still be able to rely on the Boating Safety Unit, Liddle said: “Hopefully, boaters will be a little more responsible to monitor their marine radios or make those telephone calls,” referring to a 24-hour, regularly updated recording put out by the weather service.

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Liddle said authorities did not expect any problems or an increase in accidents because of the change. The weather service will contact local agencies if there are unusual conditions such as flooding, or if a serious storm is expected, he said.

In San Diego Bay, the Harbor Police will keep track of weather conditions put out by the state Office of Emergency Services on the California Law Enforcement Teletype System.

“In the past the National Weather Service would just call us . . . (then) we were tossed into a requirement to find some other way to get that information,” said Harbor Police Capt. Martin Hight. Harbor Police considered getting the information from Coast Guard stations still being notified by the weather service, but then found that they could use the Teletype system, Hight said.

“The National Weather Service had a good point in that the reason they chose to no longer notify is that it’s available on a continuous basis from the radio . . . you don’t have to rely on the warning posted by various harbors.”

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Unlike the Mission Bay Lifeguard Service, the Harbor Police do not monitor the weather channel on the radio, Hight said.


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