- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — All Isaac needs to do is come close to Tampa to bring a lot of problems to the Republican National Convention. Even during an average summer thunderstorm in this area, major roads can flood.

When a tropical storm raked the Tampa Bay area a couple of months ago, thousands of homes and businesses lost power, tornadoes spun off, and streets and bridges were closed. It’s still too early to say where Isaac will end up, but officials are closely watching the storm and say they’re ready to make any decisions, if needed, about evacuations or cancellations as 70,000 delegates, journalists and protesters descend on the city.

“Public safety will always trump politics,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “And so my job, and our job, if we move into that mode, is to make sure we get people out of harm’s way. I don’t care whether they’re anarchists or they’re delegates.”

The current forecast has Isaac strengthening into a hurricane Thursday night and heading toward South Florida, arriving around Monday, the opening day of the convention and nearly a week of parties, speeches and other events culminating with the coronation of Mitt Romney.

The storm still was hundreds of miles from the tip of Florida on Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. Forecasters warned there still was a great deal of uncertainty with Isaac, and it could miss the state.

“The storm is so far away at this point, the cone of error from this point out is tremendous,” said Florida Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon, who has been in constant contact with RNC officials about the storm threat.

Mr. Koon has been coordinating security and convention planning with party officials for more than a year. He said there was no reason out-of-state visitors should cancel their plans, and RNC officials so far were echoing that advice.

Nebraska GOP Executive Director Jordan McGrain said there was no consternation from any of the delegates or guests prepared to head south. After all, he said Nebraskans are used to dealing with severe weather and tornadoes every spring.

“We can deal with extremes of every kind. I’m sure most of us would welcome a tropical storm as a new experience,” Mr. McGrain said. “We’re ready to ride it out.”

Pat Rogers, a committeeman in New Mexico who already is in Tampa for early meetings, said most delegates from his state would arrive Saturday before the storm.

“Clearly they are a little concerned,” he said, before joking that “we have seen more rain in one day than we get in a year.”

It has been rainy in Tampa recently. A flood watch was in effect Wednesday and part of a major interstate, was underwater a day earlier after a downpour.

Officials were preparing for the worst-case scenario, a hurricane in the Gulf, making landfall just north of Tampa, pushing even more water and wind into the Tampa Bay area, said Alex Sosnowski, a meteorologist from AccuWeather. Because a storm often can affect areas 100 miles from its center, people were told to pay attention.

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