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      Coast Guard urges common sense as Irene approaches

      Hurricane Irene may miss the Grand Strand, but the U.S. Coast Guard is still urging boaters and swimmers to stay off and out of the water until the storm has passed and ocean conditions return to normal.

      The Coast Guard says Hurricane Irene is expected to bring gale force winds, and inland waterways are expected to be choppy.

      "Our primary concern is the safety of the boating community and recreational swimmers," said Capt. Michael White, Coast Guard Sector Charleston commander. "The safest thing to do with these types of expected conditions is to stay off and stay out of the water."

      The USCG says rough seas and heavy rain can present serious dangers to boaters. And if conditions are too rough, the USCG may not be able to provide as fast a response as normal.

      The Coast Guard also reminds boaters to secure their vessels before the storm gets too close. Adding additional mooring lines is highly recommended.

      Boaters should also ensure that any gear above deck be properly stowed and secured. When items blow into the water, it often appears as though a boat has sunk and that triggers an unnecessary search by the USCG.