August 22nd, 2012
10:35 AM ET
6 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. Expat American

    Isaac does not believe Romney or Ryan are telling the truth.

    August 22, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. S-Hug

    I live in the Tampa Bay region, and I'm willing to lose some shingles if it means the greedy Republicans are driven from my state. Tampa will have it coming for even allowing them in their city. Gustav was an act of God, and Isaac may very well be the same.

    August 22, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  3. Malory Archer


    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.


    Especially after the Secret Service shut down RP's party scheduled for Sunday evening in St. Petersburg at a local watering hole, citing "security concerns". I'm not an RP supporter, but the truth of the matter is the tighty righties are terrified of RP & his supporters.

    August 22, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  4. DIANA

    Funny hurricane's hit during GOP conventions twice. Maybe God is trying to tell them something. Or the chaos is a metaphor for how the GOP really is.

    August 22, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. once upon a horse

    don't worry they'll just blame the hurricane on Obama if it comes. Better yet Michelle Bachmann might even claim it's "God's will"

    August 22, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    During the convention, Romney should release his tax returns and Ryan should explain why his extremist views on abortion. Maybe they have something to hide? Ryan is learning to flip flop from the master.

    August 22, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. w l jones

    If they got elected our economy would make tropical storm Issac look like gentle breeze.... even Hoover people would would be jumping for joy after all these years we have an administration worst than mine.

    August 22, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. Fair is Fair


    If this was the democratic convention, you know there would be may people saying that it was gods will.
    Well, it's the Republican convention, and why don't you read all of the comments from democrats saying it's God's will? Open your mouth and insert your foot.

    August 22, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. Rosslaw

    I think God's casting his vote and no one had better ask for a picture id.

    August 22, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If Inhofe is there, it is to show him that climate change is real. He can't deny it forever. We have changed the environment. I am sure that if the Democrats were facing this, the crispy Christian right wing would say this is a sign from G-d. This isn't a sign but just an example.

    August 22, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. robert jay1

    Hope this mayor does better for Tampa than Bush and the mayor did in New Orleans for Katrina – wouldn't that be a shame – homeless Republicans stranded – gosh what a thought!

    August 22, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. enuff

    Maybe God is trying to leave a message.

    August 22, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. Say No to Willard Romney Hood and Personhood Ann Ryand

    GOP needs to make sure Tom Brown is there to keep everything running smoothly.

    August 22, 2012 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  14. robert jay1

    maybe God's upset that Sarah P and Michelle B aren'there to tell Him what to do!?

    August 22, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Jack in Florida

    God does have a sense of humor, doesn't he!?!?!?

    August 22, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. Expat American

    This is what happens when you un-invite Sarah Palin as the keynote speaker.

    August 22, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Geography freak

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but last time I looked, Tampa is NOT in the panhandle area (which is to the north and runs east-west). Take a look at Panama City for mid-panhandle.
    Tampa is on the west coast of the PENINSULA part of Florida (the part that runs north/south. Good grief!

    August 22, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Kentucky Windage


    August 22, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. ghostriter

    Mayor says h has buses to ensure the safety of the conventioners. Not so much for the residents, who he is paid to protect.

    Just saying....

    August 22, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. David

    Act of God........puh-lease. Idiocy.

    August 22, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. California Grandma

    yep. god is telling these GOPers they are wrong for america, wrong for women.

    August 22, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Addison

    I just love liberals. All of you combined have a marginal IQ. First this is not a HURRICANE, Second it has not hit the US yet and can go about anywhere. I also seem to remember many years ago a conservative said New Orleans was being punished for its sins by Katrina and you liberals went crazy about that comment but here you all are doing the same stupid thing. I guess the storm last year that hit the northeast was due to punishment of that region and the liberal northeast is being punished?? Do you not see how childish this talk is? Likely every one of you is minimally educated, no character, and most certainly no critical thinking skills.

    August 22, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. Pander Bear

    God obviously disapproves of the GOP. That's why he sending hurricanes to stop them. Ain't that right religious conservatives?

    August 22, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Captain Obvious

    It would be a national tragedy if they all drowned. I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.

    August 22, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. Ann

    Obama will be blamed for this too since Isaac has both Christian and Muslim references. The biblical reference translates to "He laughs". Evangelicals will claim it's a sign that Jesus is the new black.

    August 22, 2012 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
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