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After Isaac passes the Keys, it will move over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to gain significant strength. It ultimately could make landfall on the northern Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday. However, forecasters have stressed that the storm’s exact path remains highly uncertain.

“Definitely the northern Gulf Coast should be preparing for a hurricane right now,” Jessica Schauer, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

Isaac isn’t likely to hit Tampa head-on, but it could still lash the city with rain and strong winds just as the convention ramps up. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Florida’s west coast, including Tampa Bay.

Convention officials said they would meet briefly on Monday, then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, when the storm is expected to have passed. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and canceled his plans to attend convention events on Sunday and Monday.

As of 8 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 80 miles southeast of Key West, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Isaac had top sustained winds of 65 mph.

It was moving to the west-northwest toward the Keys at 18 mph.

Associated Press writers Suzette Laboy in Miami Shores; Bill Barrow in Tampa; Trenton Daniel and Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince; Peter Orsi and Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana; Fernando Gonzalez in Baracoa, Cuba; and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.