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. Addison

    S-HUG.. I think you are a few shingles short of a full roof already.

    August 22, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Addison

    I think you are a few shingles short of a full roof already

    August 22, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. The Other Dale

    Boy, people make the obvious joke about God planning this storm and all the Republicans get their panties in a wad over it. My, my, my. Republicans certainly are PC crybabies these days.

    August 22, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Greg Morgan

    Wow. The Convention Center coud end up submerged under 20 feet of water. Let's not tell the Republicans about this, okay?

    August 22, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  5. Less than 100 days

    The real hurricane is coming this November.

    August 22, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    -- yep -- gonna keep my mouth shut on this one -- ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    August 22, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Expat American

    Not to fear. Rick Perry will hold up his bible and part any flooding on both sides of the convention center.

    August 22, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. FahQtoo

    Its been reported that the GOP has buses and other emergency vehicles in place to move these precious Republican politicians out of harms way if the Hurricane hits Tampa. What a telling sight that will be...Republicans escaping danger using every resouce at their greedy disposal while average Florida citizens are on their own. Sounds just like the Republican political agenda.

    August 22, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Boytjie

    Years ago Par Robertson said:
    "I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you."
    Maybe God has something to say about GOP conventions??

    August 22, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. No Fear

    What a wonderful outcome

    August 22, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Phil

    Of course if a hurricane had threatened the DNC twice in a row you can be sure that many Republicans would call it God's judgement.

    August 22, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. NEVER to VOTE REPUBLICAN again

    I think they all should show up with life jackets on! They're going to need them!
    OBAMA 2012!

    August 22, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  13. John

    How ironic. The party that pushed for significant cuts to NOAA's budget (they got some but no where near what they wanted) is now taking advantage of the service that NOAA provides.

    August 22, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. San Diablo

    No worries. All these Christians will walk on water.

    August 22, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. Geo

    I view politics as a storm system that we all have to watch carefully, little can we do to change things. Sooner or later, the Medicare/Medicaid system is going to have to be overhauled. If Romney/Ryan are elected and the Republicans achieve a majority in the Senate/House, Medicare and Medicaid are finished whether by a slow poison or quick decapitation. The larger issues can be argued about but as an individual I have to face what it means. $6000 won't begin to cover insurance for an elderly person. It means I won't be able to retire early as I planned, I'll have to work as long as I can, maybe into my 70s. It means that if my elderly mother and moher-in-law live long enough, we will have to care for them, provide professional nursing care, at home privately, because once the execution papers are signed public support for these programs are gone, even for those over 55. It means if I or my wife come down with a severe illness, we have to make choices, how much do we spend before we bankrupt ourselves, when does suicide become an option. No one wants to live impoverished, homeless, in pain and suffering, living on food scraps after working hard and saving your whole life. We can argue the merits of any plan but the reality of the storm brewing is what we have to face.

    August 22, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. Saboth

    Wouldn't it be ironic if the storm formed from Global Warming and wiped out the deniers in one fell swoop?

    August 22, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Eli

    The Dems better pray that the convention center is safe, or there won't be people left to pay for their free stuff...

    August 22, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Mark

    Where is Pat Robertson talking about how God uses nature to judge sinners? What about the West Nile Outbreak, centered exclusively in "red" states?

    I don't believe any of Robertson's sick claims in this regard, but you can bet if a hurricane was coming toward the Dem convention site there would be those on the far right talking about the religious/God implications. I'm not hearing that here.

    I guess it doesn't fit their agenda.

    August 22, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. batjones

    Sounds like the Republicans will be asking for another federal bailout from President Obama.

    August 22, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "Be still and know that I am God".
    His will be done....just like in 2008, right Rethugs?! lol!

    August 22, 2012 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. EatRunDive

    Why does the Almighty keep persecuting Republicans?!?

    August 22, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. gatecrasher1

    If this storm is "targeting Republicans" then explain Hurricane Katrina....

    August 22, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. Brian

    Further proof God is a Democrat.

    August 22, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  24. AG

    It's only a message from god if it can be shown conclusively (i.e. according to some televangelist) to be retribution for something liberal. This is just a rainstorm. Pure chance. Get it?

    August 22, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Gary

    This could get interesting after all.

    August 22, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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