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Important Notice to Mariners

NOAA PRESS RELEASE (NOAA 97-R290) Dec. 10 '97

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEEKS COOPERATION TO SAFEGUARD CRITICAL DATA BUOYS

The National Weather Service is soliciting the cooperation of the marine community to safeguard offshore automated weather buoys that provide critical information, including wind speed and direction, wave height, pressure changes, and other key data about marine conditions and developing storms along the coast. The data buoys are an integral part of the comprehensive observation system that allows local forecast offices to issue weather warnings and forecasts for the protection of life and property.

"In the past year, six data buoys have been vandalized off the coasts of California, Oregon, Florida, and Hawaii," said Doug Scally of the NWS National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) at the Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi. "These buoys have suffered serious damage that terminated data flow, and often prevented at-sea repairs to restore the stations to full operation. The end result has been a considerable loss of weather observations that are extremely valuable to the marine community."

The buoys which have been damaged are stations 46054 in the Santa Barbara Channel, California; 46050 near Yaquina Bay, Oregon; 46042 near Monterey Bay, California; 46012 near Half Moon Bay, California; 41010 near Cape Canaveral, Florida; and 51001 northwest of Hawaii.

"Because of the importance of the buoys to the marine and coastal communities, we hope to enlist their help in protecting these and similar systems," added Scally.

Specific steps that mariners can take to safeguard the systems include:

  • neither boarding nor tying-up to a data buoy;
  • giving the buoy a wide berth to avoid entangling the buoy's mooring or other equipment suspended from the buoy--500 yards for vessels which are trailing gear, and at least 20 yards for all others;
  • reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard any damage you observe to a data buoy;
  • reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard any observation of people on or vessels attached to a weather buoy.

The NDBC operates a network of offshore automated weather buoys and Coastal-Marine Automated Network stations that provide hourly reports of marine weather to NWS and other agencies. The buoys, off the U.S. coasts and the Great Lakes, may be nearby or several hundred miles at sea. These stations provide hourly data to NWS forecast offices that are important to the preparation of forecasts and warnings. These data are also broadcast to the public over NOAA Weather Radio, and are posted on the Internet at www.ndbc.noaa.gov.

NDBC buoys have either circular or boat-shaped hulls ranging from three meters to 10 meters across, with superstructures extending five meters to 10 meters above the water. All are painted bright colors and imprinted with "NOAA" and the station number, show a yellow, group-flashing-4 (20 seconds) light characteristic, and are identified on applicable navigation charts by the five-digit station number, or as "ODAS."