This Friday afternoon satellite image shows Tropical Storm Ophelia off the mid-Atlantic coast ahead of its arrival in the Bay region. Image: National Weather Service

Chesapeake Bay Closed to Vessels; Waterfront Braces for Ophelia

Up and down the Chesapeake Bay, Coast Guard leaders and communities are taking steps to keep people and property safe from the impending tropical storm.

The Captain of Coast Guard Sector Virginia set Port Condition Zulu for the Port of Virginia Friday afternoon, closing all vessel traffic in the coastal waters of Virginia from Cape Charles Light south to the Virginia-North Carolina border. The port is not operating either.

“The Coast Guard and our port partners are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our maritime stakeholders and first responders,” said Capt. Peggy Britton, deputy commander of Sector Virginia.

The Captain of Coast Guard Sector Maryland-Capital Region planned to follow suit, setting Port Condition Zulu Friday night at 10 p.m.

Tropical storm-force winds were predicted to come to the Bay as Ophelia moves in. The National Hurricane Center

The Coast Guard tells boaters on pleasure craft to seek safe harbor now and stay off the water this weekend. Even USCG’s search and rescue crews’ capabilities degrade as storm conditions strengthen, the agency points out, meaning that help could be delayed.

Owners of large boats should move their vessels to inland marinas and trailer-able boats should be pulled from the water. If your boat is still in the water, remove any EPIRBs and secure life rings, life jackets and life boats. If one of these breaks free and is found later, it would prompt an unnecessary search to ensure no one is in distress.

Waterfront cities and towns vulnerable to flooding and wind damage took precautions Friday against possible tropical storm effects. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin and Maryland Governor Wes Moore both declared states of emergency for their states.

Somerset County, Maryland issued a recommended voluntary evacuation for Smith Island, opening a high school and several fire departments on the mainland as emergency shelters with transportation provided.

Somerset County Commissioners and Emergency Operations Center recommend a voluntary evacuation of Smith Island and other flood-prone areas of the county. In Accomack County, Virginia, where Tangier Island is, schools closed two hours early Friday due to the imminent storm.

In Annapolis, the city handed out 50 tons of sand and supplied bags and shovels for businesses and residents. The Harbormaster made slips and mooring ball available to unsecured boats.

Bay Bulletin will continue to monitor Ophelia’s developments through the weekend. Read the latest from the National Hurricane Center here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano