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. Marie MD

    Send issa, the car thief, to check the wind every half hour or so. I would love to see that toupee of his blow away!

    August 22, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. Bman

    I can't wait to see this happen.

    August 22, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  3. Poetic justice

    It would strike me as a karmic sort of poetic justice that Isaac, the sacrificial son, might take the opportunity to dampen the celebrations of the political party whose politics willingly sacrifice their own children in wars they don't have to fight, whose safety net won't be affected, whose health care will not be touched, whose world will not last long enough to care about climate change. The party of God may get a message from him through Isaac. I wonder if they'll hear it.

    August 22, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. b

    The winds of change are coming. Albeit 4 years late.

    August 22, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  5. mac101

    Geez – a hurricane AND a bunch of republicans? Must suck to live in Tampa this week.

    August 22, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. CBR

    It is Hurricane season in Florida. Surely the Republicans in Florida know that. Should be an interesting weeknight.

    August 22, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  7. bro

    why spend all that time and money for no reason Romney will not win

    August 22, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  8. 2buttercups

    The planners for the Republican Convention, must be taking tranquilizers by the handful. With the way things are going, GOP may end up standing for "Get Out Pronto!" What a mess!

    August 22, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  9. leftywriteagain

    The GOP covention will be like political roast. Jokes from top to bottom. Lets call it a "legitamate" defeat in NOV. Four more years.

    August 22, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  10. Judas

    The sweet smell of divine retribution in the making. You'd think they'd get the message and buy some humanity instead of pushing an agenda of control, intolerance and hate.

    August 22, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  11. S1N

    Umm... the panhandle is in northern Florida. It starts at the bend (to the left) on the map. Tampa is considered either Central Florida or South Florida, depending on who you ask. It is NOT in the panhandle.

    August 22, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  12. Wake up People!

    How ironic, the party that claims superiority over everyone else in the name of God is about to be hit by a hurricane. See that's what happens to phony Christians that think they can fool God. The same thing happened in Michigan. Dexter got hit by a tornado two years in a row. Almost exactly to the day. Did I mention there aren't very many if any minorities there?

    Obama/ Biden 2012!

    August 22, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  13. nc1965

    This storm is a bad omen for the GOP. God is angry.

    August 22, 2012 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Cancel the convention, a useless publlic display in Theater of the Absurd.

    August 22, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  15. SafeJourney

    Now that hurricane Akin has attacked the GOP, hurricane Issac is on it way to the GOP convention.

    August 22, 2012 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  16. DontBeAfraid

    I've never seen everyone (media) over-hype a storm so much especially a system that is 5 days away...it's almost like they know exactly where its going to hit.....in Tampa....

    August 22, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  17. RandyF

    Karma for Katrina would be interesting.

    August 22, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  18. master5hake

    lol. these dudes cant even plan a convention, how can they run a country. heres a idea lets have a convention in hurricane country during hurricane season. i guess the next convention will be in tornado alley sometime between April and june (tornado season)

    August 22, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  19. Capybara91

    This bunch of pansies never ventures out into the real world, anyway.

    August 22, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. ValarMorghulis

    It's hurricane season and where did the Republican National Committee arrange to hold their nominating convention? Right in the middle of hurricane alley. Brilliant just like everything else the GOP does! Like how stupid does one have to be?

    August 23, 2012 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  21. Fred Nerk

    They should shift it to Switzerland so Romney can access his ATM account.

    August 23, 2012 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  22. Fred Nerk

    ANY woman or minority or senior citzen who attends the GOP convention should have their head examined. The Mormon President will spread his cult through the entire USA if he is elected with the help of people he seeks to oppress. Make no mistake that this is a class/civil war between those who value freedom and those of the GOP who want to enslave us. The GOP is like the Taliban.

    August 23, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  23. nokoolaidcowboy

    Hurricane blasting through the GOP Convention? This might make the convention worth watching! Will Sean Hannity be there?

    August 23, 2012 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  24. coffeebean02

    I'm routing for the storm...!

    August 23, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  25. Olivia

    Yep, God is trying to tell us something. Not religious – but think this is definitely a sign. Seriously can't believe anyone even slightly tuned in to what is going on could possibly vote for Romney. I think he has managed to alienate almost everyone but the super rich.

    August 23, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
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