Florida — and the GOP — Brace For Isaac's Winds and Rain

  • August 24, 2012
  • By Jim Malewitz

As Tropical Storm Isaac swirls towards the Florida coast, Republican officials say next week's party convention in Tampa is still a go.

“There's not an anticipation that there will be a cancellation,” Governor Rick Scott said Thursday (August 23), according to Bloomberg News. “The state is more prepared than any state in the country for hurricanes.”

Less than halfway through Florida's hurricane season, seven storms have formed in the state's vicinity and two have impacted the state.

Some 50,000 people are expected to show up at the convention, scheduled to begin Monday. That flood of visitors is projected to bring at least $153.6 million to the Tampa Bay region, the Tampa Bay Times reported earlier this month.

But it's the possibility of actual flooding and heavy wind damage wrought by the storm that has fixed millions of eyes on the weather radar.

Issac is expected to pass through Haiti on Friday (August 24), threatening the poor island nation with flashfloods and mudslides as it heads northwest across the Caribbean. The storm is traveling about 15 miles per hour with max winds of 45 miles per hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Those winds, however, may strengthen to 75 mph by Monday — making it a low-level hurricane — as the storm moves across the Florida Straits and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Tampa lies within a “cone of uncertainty,” a rough estimate of the storm's 5-day path shows. But meteorologists emphasize such long-term forecasts are difficult to make as storms can quickly change direction.

Tampa hasn't taken a direct hit from a hurricane since 1921, a non-convention year, reports the New York Times.

Regardless of whether the storm directly hits the city, forecasters expect the region will be hit with heavy rains and winds, creating the potential for flooding and other disruptions.

On Thursday afternoon, weather officials said Tampa had a 22 percent chance of receiving tropical force winds in the coming days. Flood warnings were in effect for 6 Florida rivers.

Most of the convention's events will take place in the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Tampa Convention Center, which are in evacuation zones overlooking the bay. If winds eclipse 45 mph — a likely scenario — that would prompt officials to close bridges connecting these facilities to downtown Tampa, where many of the delegates are staying, Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told the ABC News Radio Thursday.

"If you get a large enough storm in there, there is the potential that the storm surge could drive water up towards them and cause some flooding issues," Koon said.

Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Andrew, one of Florida's biggest disasters. That storm had initially appeared to be dissipating but swelled to a Category 5 hurricane within three days, decimating the Gulf coasts of Florida and Louisiana. In Florida alone, the storm killed 44 people and destroyed more than 25,000 homes.

“Hurricane Andrew changed the landscape of Florida, the way we prepare and respond to a disaster,” Koon said in a release.

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