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Storm Signal flags (U.S.)

Last modified: 2007-10-20 by
Keywords: united states | storm signals | gale | hurricane |
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[U.S. Storm Signal flags] image by Rick Wyatt, 6 August 1999

[U.S. Storm Hurricane flag]
Hurricane Flag
[U.S. Storm Gale Pennant] image by Antonio Martins, 15 August 1999
Gale Pennant

See also:


Each U.S. Storm Signal Set consists of 2 Hurricane Flags and 2 Gale Pennants. They are used as follows:

  Type Wind Speed
1 pennant small craft
up to 38 mph
2 pennants gale
39-54 mph
1 flag storm/whole gale
55-73 mph
2 flags hurricane
74+ mph

In this day and age of satellite communications and instant information, these flags are no longer used by the government. However, individuals and marinas still use them.
Rick Wyatt, 6 August 1999

Coast Guard Usage

The storm warning flags were formerly used by the U.S. National Weather Service to warn ships and boats of bad weather. Although the NWS discontinued posting flag warnings on 15 February 1989, the announcement of that cessation said "U.S. Coast Guard and other stations may continue to display warning signals without the direct participation of the National Weather Service."

According to a Coast Guard message to all stations on 22 February 2001 (ALCOAST 069/01), some stations did indeed maintain the tradition of displaying these signals as a service to their local communities. The purpose of the message was to provide instructions for the continued use of the warning flags and directed that "Weather flags shall not be displayed by Coast Guard units except as provided for in this message." The guidelines now governing Coast Guard use of the weather flags:

Joe McMillan, 5 October 2001