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. RapidOne

    How ironic - these people who convinced their idi0t followers (slaves) that there was no such thing as global warming might be swallowed up by massive hurricanes ultimately caused my global warming. Can there be such justice in the world??

    August 22, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. us_1776

    Plagues and hurricanes are coming upon the GOP blasphemers.

    .

    August 22, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. sufferingsuckotash

    Don't worry, I heard GWB and his pal Brownie are on standby to come to the rescue should the republican party start to drown. oh, wait...

    August 22, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. G in FL

    So, this isn't a typical political or even religious comment; it's geographical. What are these CNN writers calling the "Florida Panhandle?" At least they got the Gulf Coast part right.

    August 22, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. MoninDenver

    God is trying to tell these right-wing nutbags something...but they don't want to hear it!

    The trap you set for America will be the hole that swallows you up. LOL

    August 22, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Publius Novus

    Let's see. A hurricane attacked the GOP convention in 2008–in Minnesota, no less. A hurricane with the name of a major Old Testament prophet threatens the GOP convention in 2012. Maybe the Republicans should be concerned that God is trying to tell them something. I think they should ckeck with Michelle Bachmann–she's tapped in to the Almighty's messaging systems.

    August 22, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. JimK2450

    AL-NY,NY…

    In mentioning “the party is arranging bus service to and from your hotel to the strip bars and liquor stores”, you forgot to mention the gay bars as well! Bars, straight AND gay, strip joints and liquor stores ALWAYS see an increase in their business during conventions...ANY conventions, ESPECIALLY political and religious ones. If you’ve ever been in the hospitality industry, you already know this!

    August 22, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. Jack Be Humble

    I saw the article title and thought it was about the GoP platform... nevermind.

    August 22, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. Jen

    If the storm does blow away the RNC, I wonder if any conservatives will say it's a message from God against the GOP? Like when they blamed the gays, abortionists, and feminists for Katrina...

    August 22, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  10. Republican supporter of President Obama

    I am done with the GOP and tired of hearing what they have to say. I hope the storm will wash out their their toxic rhetoic parade. Time for some fresh ideas that will benefit the people of this country instead of the focus on grabbing power.

    People over party.

    August 22, 2012 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  11. Expat American

    Never Fear. The GOP has built an Ark in the event of flood conditions; but no same-sex couplings are allowed – humans or animals.
    Also no minorities, middle class, poor white GOP voters or women who haven’t signed over their uterus in exchange for a GOP voter registration card will be admitted either.

    August 22, 2012 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  12. Mk54

    Forecast for Tampa on Monday, gusty wind, blow hards, air heads and a storm surge of rhetoric.....and maybe a hurricane, too.

    August 22, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  13. Namejkane fl SEND THE THREE TIME LOSER romney HOME AND MAKE IT FOUR.

    Hay, they chose romney the tax cheat ,Ryan atkins abortion freaks and BACHMANN ,cantor ,their record is losey ,poor Tampa ,a hurricane and all the Gop goofs at the same time ,god must want to punish them for cheating on,their taxes like romney and family !!!!!!!

    August 22, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Jackson

    I wonder what Fred Phelps would say about this storm hitting the convention.

    August 22, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. bicbic

    The New Orleans Superdome will be available again.

    August 22, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. Romney is not My Hero

    BWWHAHAHAHAH!!! Isaac, the son of Abraham, is sweeping through during the convention to bring the GOPets a message from on high. I can just imagine all that fake hair blowing in the wind.

    OBAMA 2012!!!!

    August 22, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  17. John the Historian

    I wonder if they have hurricanes on Willard's planet kolob ?

    August 22, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  18. Sharkmann

    I think the storm already hit the GOP.

    August 22, 2012 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  19. geoff hamilton

    How ironic that an act of God can potentially wash out "God's" party.

    August 22, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  20. Thaddeus Kozubal

    Dear Mayor, please send for some BP gasoline from the Midwest for those 400 buses.
    But, they should not be evacuated. I want to see how many of them can swim.
    If we're lucky, there will be less of them that will need to be voted out of office.
    Is someone trying to tell the RNC something?
    Make sure you check their driver's licenses before being admitted on to those buses; we wouldn't want any illegitimate voters saved in the process. Go you Republipuicks!!

    August 22, 2012 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  21. GonzoinHouston

    Of course, if it DOESN'T hit Tampa, which is really more likely, all the right-wingers will be claiming it as proof of God's favor. Except Bachman, who will claim that she and her husband prayed it away.

    August 22, 2012 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. skywriter908

    Since when is Tampa in the Florida panhandle? The panhandle is the northern part of the state next to Alabama. Tampa is in the southwestern part, on the Gulf coast.

    August 22, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  23. JimK2450

    NOAA (The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) and the possibility of an upcoming storm? Why does this immediately come to mind?

    Sawing away, Noah was making a few things for his home.
    He was a good carpenter.

    (Whoompa, whoompa, whoompa, whoompa)
    Noah!
    Somebody call?
    (Whoompa, whoompa, whoompa)
    Noah!
    Who is that?
    It's the Lord, Noah.
    Right!

    Where are ya? What you want? I've been good.
    I want you to build an Ark.
    Yeah…right! What’s an Ark?

    (Thank you, Bill Cosby!)
    :)

    August 22, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. Donkey Party

    Hurricane Isaac is just God's way of showing what he thinks about Republicans.

    August 22, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  25. Donkey Party

    What better way to hamper the GOP hate-fest than divine intervention?

    August 22, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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