(WASHINGTON) — Republican delegates can breathe a slight sigh of relief today as Tropical Storm Isaac, which was originally projected to slam into the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla. Tuesday, veers to the west and might now make landfall more than 200 miles away from the convention zone.
The convention’s 50,000 expected delegates, journalists, protesters and guests will still need to prepare for heavy rain and winds of up to 50 mph, but will likely be spared the hurricane-force wind, rain and flooding that was originally predicted.
“Not by any stretch of the imagination are they out of the woods with this thing,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
From Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, Tampa will likely see heavy rain that could flood streets, gusts of tropical-force winds that could close bridges and a possible storm surge that could flood low-lying areas such as beachfront hotels and the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the hub of the convention.
Bryan Koon, the state’s emergency management director, said if winds exceed 40 mph, some of the bridges spanning Tampa Bay will likely have to be closed. That would cut 27 state delegations that are booked at hotels across the bay off from the convention center, forcing hundreds of delegates to drive around the bay to make it to the convention. That’s if the roads don’t flood, Koon said.
“It’s not going to be one single thing that we are looking at,” Koon said. “We’ve had a lot of rainfall in the Tampa Bay area in the past few months, so flooding is a potential. If it comes down in large amounts of rain in a short time period, it would make some roads impassable.”
Koon said emergency managers also have their eye on a possible storm surge, which could swamp many of the beachfront hotels that pepper the bay area. Twenty-two state delegations are staying in beachfront hotels.
But while the situation on the ground in Tampa will likely be wet and windy, the circumstances in the skies could be far rosier. Koons said he is “not overly concerned” about airports closing or delegates’ flights being grounded because of the storm.
He said that if the storm affects the airport, it would “probably be short lived and would just delay flights” not cancel them.
Isaac’s track and intensity could change greatly after it passes over Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba this weekend, where the storm will likely be weakened by high mountains. Isaac is expected to pick up strength Sunday and Monday over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters and the eye of the storm is predicted to pass west of Tampa far out in the Gulf.
Mitt Romney, who is expected to be voted in as the official Republican presidential nominee Monday, said he is not expecting to have any trouble braving the storm to accept the nomination.
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