August 22nd, 2012
10:35 AM ET
2 years ago

As Isaac churns up reminder of Gustav, GOP planners say they're ready

(CNN) - Four years ago Hurricane Gustav brought the first night of the Republican National Convention in land-locked St. Paul, Minnesota to a halt.

Today, RNC-goers are bracing for déjà vu all over again.

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But as Tropical Storm Isaac rotates its way toward the Southeast coast of the United States - and possibly Tampa, Florida where the RNC is being held next week - Tampa's mayor insists the city is ready for whatever Isaac might bring.

"I'm not really nervous at all. I feel like an athlete," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said on CNN's Early Start Wednesday. "You know, we've trained hard. We've been training for a year and a half."

Tampa will swell by 50,000 people during the RNC this year as delegates, high-profile party loyalists, media and politicians descend on the city which lies midway up the Florida panhandle on the state's Gulf coast.

A Weather Underground report says if the tropical storm strengthens to a category 4 hurricane and hits Tampa, the Convention center could be submerged in 20 feet of water. Even if Isaac becomes a category 1 hurricane, it could hamper the convention.

The mayor said the city is ready even if some of the convention sites lie in the middle of the evacuation zone. He said the city had 400 buses to move delegates to safety.

"We have contingency plan after contingency plan," Buckhorn said. "We are ready in the event that it happens. I don't think it's going to be a factor in this particular convention. But we are prepared in the event that it is."

And RNC organizers say they are "monitoring the situation closely."

"We are working closely with state, federal, and local officials and plan on putting on a great convention," said Republican National Convention spokesman Kyle Downey.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his team was "closely tracking the potential for the storm to impact part or all of the state, including the Tampa Bay region during the Republican National Convention."

"Florida's state emergency management team and local emergency teams have been working closely with convention officials and have been planning for this event for more than a year, and the possibility of a hurricane hitting the convention has been part of that planning process," Scott continued in his statement.

As of Thursday, there is no certainty that Isaac will make an impact on the convention.

While Tampa lies within the National Weather Service's computer models, the "cone" or area that the storm could hit remains too wide to make an accurate assessment.

"[It will be] at least a couple more days until we can pinpoint what the exact track will be," said National Weather Service Spokesman Chris Vaccaro.

Still, the storm shouldn't be taken for granted.

"This is definitely a storm that needs to be watched but the jury's still out on its exact track," Vaccaro said.

In the event that the storm does head for Tampa, Buckhorn says the city is prepared to cancel the convention.

"Absolutely we're prepared to call it off," said Buckhorn. "I mean, human safety and human life trumps politics. I think the RNC recognizes that."

Concern with holding the RNC in Tampa smack in the middle of what has now been declared a "near- or above-normal Atlantic hurricane season" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began in 2010 when the committee was choosing between Salt Lake City, Tampa and Phoenix.

"As much as this Floridian would like to see a good Florida convention again, the hurricane season beckons and seems to have placed a target on the sunshine state during that month," The Atlantic's Mark Ambider wrote. "Can the Republicans risk that? Probably not."

But Republicans chose the Sunshine State anyway.

At 8 a.m. ET Thursday, Isaac was about 210 miles east of Guadeloupe in the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph - a slight increase from earlier in the morning - and was moving west at 19 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Tropical storm warnings cover much of the Leeward Islands as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, which means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.

Despite the storm brewing, one 2008 RNC organizer said plans for extreme weather at conventions are robust.

"From a contingency standpoint, convention organizers in both cities will be well prepared for just about every scenario," said Matt Burns, communications director for the 2008 GOP convention. "But when the folks in Tampa ask 'how's the weather,' it isn't quite the idle question it was a week ago."

The Florida Governor's office did not immediately return request for comment.

CNN's Jason Hanna, Brad Lendon, Dave Hennen and Sean Morris contributed to this report.

soundoff (126 Responses)
  1. WILLARD MILTON ROMNEY IS A COWARD & TAX EVADER

    God don't like ugly. He's going to rain on your parade RNC.

    August 22, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. Meka

    GOP / TEA Folks, have NEVER BEEN READY for anything!

    August 22, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  3. matt from NH

    Maybe is a sign from GOD...... I guess if natural disaster struck during the convention they would see it as a sign to persevere....

    August 22, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  4. Hahahahaahahhhahaha

    The republican solution to Hurricanes: Tax cuts for the rich so they can create jobs in India and China!!...........er I mean so the can create Hurricanes!!!!!!!............er I mean so they can create Hurricanes in Inida and China!!!!!!! Yeah, that's it!!!! Hahahahahahahaha

    August 22, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. rs

    Dear GOP-

    This is a sign from God. Tou have gone over the top.

    August 22, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  6. NVa Native

    Must be Pat Robertson is going to speak?

    August 22, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  7. mcskadittle

    If this was the democratic convention, you know there would be may people saying that it was gods will.

    August 22, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. carlos

    good luck to the people who live in Tampa. Please be very careful.

    August 22, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. v_mag

    I think the worst storms might be inside the Convention Center in Tampa. Ron Paul delegates, the spectre of the War on Women, Flip Flopper Rob-money and the fact that even his own party members don't trust him, the ghosts of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. There are a bunch of swirling storms in store.

    I can't wait until the Flip Flopper shortens his title to just "Flop".

    August 22, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  10. MaryM

    The weather will be a problem only if it is a "legitimate" tropical storm.

    August 22, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. 8.3% unemployment - Over 8% 42 Straight months and the Obama Jobs DEPRESSION continues unabated

    After 4 years of the Obama Depression a little hurricane is nothing. Bring it on. Nothing will stop us from getting rid of the worse president is US history.

    August 22, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  12. Al-NY,NY

    It happened 4 years ago and it looks like it may happen again....what a hoot! BTW, dont worry delegates. The party is arranging bus service to and from your hotel to the strip bars and liquor stores so you won't be denied your "family values" perks while at the convention.

    August 22, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. David A

    Obama!! 2012. Keep the perverts out of the White House

    August 22, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  14. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I certainly hope that the storm spares the west coast of Florida, but if it hits Tampa, I wonder if republicans will expect the federal government to bail their sorry butts out.

    August 22, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. mcskadittle

    sweet, back the policies that got into the worst economic collapse since the great depression

    August 22, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. Will

    God's vengence will fall on the wicked that gather in Tampa to nominate the great moron. He is a false American Idol and deserves to burn in hot boiling soup de jour.

    August 22, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. sf

    And this still won't convince these right wing idiots that their way of life and thinking is NOT the right way! until their "god" tears their RNC convention and obliterates them all... only then will they get their GOD's message...wishful thinking.

    August 22, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. pntherpaw86

    "But Republicans chose the Sunshine State anyway."

    That means they know if they lose Florida, they can kiss the White House goodbye, so they are doing everything possible to get people in Florida excited about their lame candidate Romney. And sorry Ryan, you dragging your mother on the stage is not going to convince anyone that you're not out to end Medicare and leave seniors drowning in medical bills. As others have said, if your plan is soooooooooo good, why wait 10 years to put it in place???

    August 22, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. coyoteliberty

    There will be a storm all right, as Ron Paul supporters who truly believe in individual liberty and freedom flee a party that pays those values lip service and leave the convention disenchanted, embracing the pro-liberty and pro-freedom agenda of Libertarian Gary Johnson.

    August 22, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. Calendar watcher

    BTW, today is Wednesday! The article keeps talking about "as of Thursday" - are they fortunetellers?

    August 22, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. labman57

    Well, since sanctimonious conservatives insist that natural phenomena such as hurricanes are "God's will", and since they also believe that God is "on their side", then they should have nothing to worry about, right?

    They can simply pray the storms away.

    August 22, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. irunner

    Tampa does NOT lie "midway up the Florida panhandle". The panhandle is the stretch between Pensacola and Tallahassee bordering Georgia and Alabama.

    August 22, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    We're expecting some pretty high tides next week, so it won't take much to put a few feet of water in downtown Tampa, or to flood the tunnel they built themselves to shield them from "you people", the unwashed masses. Anypoop, like the billboard near the I-75/Armenia Avenue exit says: Welcome to Tampa, where the Mayor and all City Council members are Democrats! Enjoy your stay!

    August 22, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. Bill

    "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were (over)privileged anyway, so this –this is working very well for them." – Barbra Bush after Katrina

    August 22, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. Malory Archer

    Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I certainly hope that the storm spares the west coast of Florida, but if it hits Tampa, I wonder if republicans will expect the federal government to bail their sorry butts out.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    They're already demanding that the local EOCs give priority to the 50k visitors over the 5 million bay area residents. With any luck local emergency planners will stick to their guns after they told them that while they're welcome in our hurricane shelters, Emergency Ops' first priority will be for the locals – a great many of whom are elderly with special needs. And that's how it should be.

    August 22, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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