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Small Craft Advisory Explained

March 17, 2009

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Angela Johnson


When the winds are gusting and water is choppy, sea-sickness is not the only thing happening. A small craft advisory has likely been issued.

Small Craft Advisories are issued when winds have reached, or are expected to be between 23-38 mph in the next 12 hours, along with seas or waves 4-10 feet or higher.

A Small Craft Advisory can also be issued in winter when sea or lake ice exists that could be dangerous to small boats.

With no legal definition of a small craft, any vessel that would be affected by the strong winds and high seas or waves should pay attention.

When leaving the dock, boat captains should check the weather and pay particular attention to advisories.

Many U.S. Coast Guard stations display a red flag -- during the day -- or a red light over a white light at night when a Small Craft Advisory is in effect. These are displayed on a tower called coastal warning display towers.

This Coastal warning display has its roots in the 1800s and was discontinued in 1989 before being brought back in 2007. It was discontinued because of telephone recordings and when the use of NOAA weather radio became more popular. The Coastal Warning Display were re-established in 2007 at selected U.S. Coast Guard boat stations due to the growing number of people now living in coastal areas.

Be sure check your WeatherBug for the latest weather in your neighborhood and along the coast.

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