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FDOT, USCG: Martin, St. Lucie draw bridges locked down ahead of TS Nicole

NewsFDOT, USCG: Martin, St. Lucie draw bridges locked down ahead of TS Nicole

Owners of large vessels attempted to avoid the same fate which befell so many in Hurricane Ian’s path by fleeing to upstream hurricane holes on Tuesday before Tropical Storm Nicole’s arrival.

The Okeechobee Waterway, a federally maintained passageway bisecting the state of Florida from Stuart to Fort Myers, offers a path for boaters to escape Atlantic Coast storm threats.

Agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Cospanst Guspanrd and Floridspan Dept. of Trspannsportspantion teamed up to ensure boaters could move away from the storm’s path while ensuring safety of vehicle traffic.

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A sportfishing boat motors from the St. Lucie Locks on Nov. 8, 2022 ahead of Tropical Storm Nicole's arrival.

What happened at the locks?

Tuesday, scores of boaters waited patiently in the South Fork of the St. Lucie River for their turn at passing through the St. Lucie Lock & Dam. Boaters were trying to escape the winds and storm surge of the coming storm expected to make Florida landfall sometime late Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning.

The St. Lucie Lock & Dam is operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The agency announced Tuesday it will operate the locks until winds reach 35 mph or lightning arrives. Lock hours are from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The lock itself is 50 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 250 feet long and can fit 5-7 vessels, depending upon their size. It takes about 30-40 minutes for each lock cycle which raises the boats about 14 feet from the level of the St. Lucie River to the level of the canal above it. The canal connects with Lake Okeechobee 23 miles to the west. Another lock there at Port Mayaca can be operated to raise or lower boats if the level of the canal and lake are different.

Boats were staging about two miles down river at midday Tuesday awaiting their turn to lock through. The boats included motor yachts, cruisers, sportfishing boats, sailboats and trawl

What is Port Condition X-Ray?

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Miami issued Port Condition X-Ray early Tuesday morning. Most of the order assigned technical instructions for maritime interests such as cargo ships, barges and dredges working with Miami River, Port of Miami, Port Everglades, Port of Palm Beach and Port of Fort Pierce.

For the majority of residents in front of Tropical Storm Nicole’s path, Port Condition X-Ray also addressed the lockdown of draw bridges in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties.

In conjunction with the FDOT, bridges were locked down Tuesday afternoon to marine traffic in the Palm Beaches, at Hobe Sound (A1A), the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart (Dixie Highway) and the Banty Saunders bridge on North Causeway in Fort Pierce (A1A).   

The bridges will remain closed for the duration of severe weather and until the drawbridges and waterways can be assessed for damages. Bridges will remain open to vehicular traffic. Mariners are encouraged to frequently check the USCG Notice to Mariners for updates and additional information at Sector Miami, USCG Mispanmi.

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