Next week’s Republican National Convention might be held in the middle of a hurricane. Tropical Storm Isaac is heading for the Florida coast, though weather experts say it’s too early to accurately predict the storm’s path.
The Republican National Convention is scheduled to occur in Tampa from Monday to Thursday of next week. The U.S. National Hurricane Center has said that Tropical Storm Isaac could become a hurricane by Thursday, but that it could hit Florida by as early as Sunday night. Earlier today, the storm swirling about 280 miles east of Guadeloupe had wind speeds of 45 mph and was moving west at about 18 mph, according to FoxNews.com. Winds of at least 74 mph would elevate Tropical Storm Isaac to hurricane status.
"It's too early to say, 'Oh my gosh, it's going to be a disaster,'" Dan Kottlowski, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather Forecast, told the L.A. Times. "But certainly, it is a concern." He added that he expects the storm to dissipate after reaching hurricane level over the Caribbean, leaving the Republican National Convention intact. But there’s just no telling yet.
"You could come up with dozens of scenarios as to where this thing could go in terms of strength,” Kottlowski said. “There's a lot of uncertainty."
James Davis, a spokesman for the Republican National Convention, told USA Today that coordination efforts are underway in case of a severe weather emergency.
"From a contingency standpoint, convention organizers in both cities will be well prepared for just about every scenario," said Matt Burns, who was communications director for the 2008 Republican National Convention. "But when the folks in Tampa ask 'how's the weather,' it isn't quite the idle question it was a week ago."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn remains unconcerned. He told CNN that the city has 400 buses available to evacuate the delegates if disaster strikes the Republican National Convention, which about 70,000 people are expected to attend.
"I'm not really nervous at all. I feel like an athlete," Buckhorn said on CNN's Early Start Wednesday. "You know, we've trained hard. We've been training for a year and a half." In May, a mock hurricane drill was held, with pretend severe weather conditions under which the convention would be canceled.
The last major hurricane to hit Florida was Hurricane Wilma in 2005, and it’s been 90 years since Tampa has been a target.