KEY WEST, Fla. - The U.S. Coast Guard established an emergency phone line Saturday for boaters in the Florida Keys.
The phone line was set up in anticipation of the loss of marine radio transmissions because of Hurricane Irma.
Mariners in need of emergency assistance are asked to call 304-433-3352 to reach the Coast Guard Sector Key West incident command post.
Coast Guard officials urge boaters to continue calling the line if it's busy because there could potentially be a high volume of calls coming in.
People should only call 911 for land-based emergencies.
Boaters should be aware that the Coast Guard's response time is expected to be "severely degraded or delayed" as the storm passes over the area, officials said in a news release.
Boaters are discouraged from reaching out to the Coast Guard on social media during the storm as their access to social media feeds may be severely limited during or immediately after the storm.
Coast Guard officials said mariners should seek shelter at this time and should stay off the water as weather conditions continue to worsen throughout the region.
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