Storm Threatens to Swamp Republican Convention
(WASHINGTON) -- Isaac, currently a tropical storm brewing southeast of Puerto Rico, is on track to hit Florida the same day that Mitt Romney and 50,000 Republican delegates, journalists, protestors and guests descend on Tampa for the Republican National Convention.
While it is too early to accurately predict the storm's path, ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said it will hit southern Florida. Whether it will skim the east coast near Miami or crash head-on into Tampa, is still up in the air.
"Any way you take it, it's going to be a wind and rain event in Tampa," Golembo said. "We don't know if it's going to be damaging to Tampa, cancelling the convention or just delaying it."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said today that cancelling the convention is absolutely an option.
"Absolutely we are prepared to call it off," Buckhorn told CNN's Early Start. "Human safety and human life trumps politics. I think the RNC recognizes that. The organizers, certainly Gov. Romney, recognizes that."
"Whatever we do will be based on getting people out of harm's way," Buckhorn continued. "Politics will take second place and all of us recognize that."
As of this morning, the worst possible scenario is that Hurricane Isaac stays on the western track, skating over the Caribbean Sea south of Haiti, crossing the primarily flat landscape of western Cuba into the Gulf of Mexico then curving east and hitting Tampa dead-on.
"Tampa is just as vulnerable as New Orleans was in the sense that the water will funnel into the bay area and from the storm surge which will flood completely the whole entire city of Tampa," Golembo said referring to Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005.
"It would be a disaster in the Tampa area," Golembo said.
While most prediction models show the storm taking a more eastern track, Golembo said one "very important model," one meteorologists use "a lot," has Isaac slamming directly into Tampa.
"That's why the meteorologists are pulling their hair out right now," Golembo said. "If it was a model we wouldn't care, but it's the model."
Buckhorn said Tampa is "as well equipped and as well prepared as any city could be," for a major weather event during the convention.
"We are prepared for it, we train for it we have contingency plan after contingency plan," he said in the CNN interview. "But I don't think it is going to be a factor in this particular convention, but we are prepared in the event that it is."
The Republican National Convention has been working with local, state and federal authorities for more than a year to create contingency plans in the event this worst case scenario came true. RNC spokesman James Davis told ABC News that convention planners are "monitoring the storm" and "will make sure everyone's health and safety is protected."
"We will release information as we get it. Right now we are looking forward to having a great convention," Davis said. "We are confident we will be able to get the business done of our convention which is to nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."
Davis would not say when or if the convention would be called off, rescheduled or moved.
Under the best case scenario, the storm could smash into the mountains of Haiti which "would really kill the system," then the weakened storm could sweep over the Bahamas and swirl off the east coast of Florida, bringing strong winds and rain to Miami, but missing Tampa, Golembo said.
In that scenario, Tampa would see 30 mph winds and about 1 inch of rainfall, Golembo said.
The weatherman said, "I don't think they would have to cancel anything."
"Pack an umbrella at least and maybe a poncho and galoshes, but don't quite break out the boats and don't start building the arc," Golembo said.
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