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Guide to the USCG Coastal Warning Flags
Whenever a boater sees ANY of the Coastal Warning Display system flags, he or she should immediately tune to the local weather radio broadcasts or telephone recordings for localized, specific information.
Small Craft Advisory
The Small Craft Advisory is an advisory in Coastal Waters and Near shore forecasts for sustained winds, frequent gusts, or sea/wave conditions, exceeding defined thresholds specific to geographic areas. A Small Craft Advisory may also be issued when sea or lake ice exists that could be hazardous to small boats. It is issued when winds have reached, or are expected to reach within 12 hours, a wind speed up to 38 mph (33 knots). There is no legal definition of “small craft”.
A gale warning is issued when winds have reached, or are expected to reach between 39 mph (34 knots) and 55 mph (48 knots).
A storm warning is issued when winds have reached, or are expected to reach between 55 mph (48 knots) and 74 mph (65 knots.)
A Hurricane warning is issued when winds have reached, or are expected to reach 74 mph (65 knots) or greater.
Source: US Coast Guard