A day after the mayor of Tampa said he was prepared to call off next week's Republican National Convention if Tropical Storm Isaac hit the bay area as a major storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott assured conventiongoers that "Tampa is open for business."
"We're a hospitality state," Scott said on CNN. "We do this every day."
Tropical Storm Isaac, which brought heavy winds and rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on Thursday, is expected to reach hurricane strength before reaching the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Florida Keys.
According to the National Weather Service, Isaac's projected path would most likely take it just to the west of Tampa as a Category 1 hurricane--with winds between 75 and 85 mph--on Monday, making landfall in the Florida Panhandle sometime Tuesday. (One computer model had the storm pass right over Tampa; another had it hitting New Orleans.)
While the site of the GOP convention--the Tampa Bay Times Forum--would be within the city's mandatory evacuation zone should winds reach 96 mph, Scott urged the 50,000 people expected in Tampa to not change their travel plans.
Scott said his office conducts conference calls twice a day with state, local and Republican officials to discuss contingency plans, and that the convention organizers would ultimately make the "hypothetical" call to cancel the event.
"If something happens, we're going to be ready," Scott said. "But Florida's used to this. We're a tourism state. We're going to have a great convention."
According to Reuters, though, authorities "have not ruled out the possibility of postponing or relocating the Republican convention if the storm takes direct aim at the city on Florida's central Gulf Coast."
"Absolutely, we're prepared to call it off," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said on CNN on Wednesday. "I mean, safety and human life trump politics. I think the RNC recognizes that. The organizers, certainly Gov. Romney, recognize that."
"These officials have been working together on the convention for the past 18 months," Scott said earlier Thursday. "The possibility of a hurricane has been part of that planning process. All that's required for those plans to be activated would be for there to be a hurricane and hopefully that will not happen."
"There is no such thing as cancelling," RNC communications director Sean Spicer said on CNN's "Starting Point."
But the carefully-worded statement from convention chief William Harris--issued Thursday afternoon--leaves some wiggle room:
The Republican National Convention and the Republican National Committee, working in consultation with the Romney/Ryan campaign, are in regular contact with the National Weather Service, Governor Scott and local emergency officials in an effort to track and understand the potential impact of the storm. Governor Scott and local emergency officials have assured us that they have the resources in place to respond to this storm should it make landfall, as our primary concern is with those in the potential path of the storm. We will continue to work closely with them and federal officials to monitor the storm and discuss any impact it might have on the Tampa area and the state of Florida. We continue to move forward with our planning and look forward to a successful convention.
Currently, the storm has sustained winds of just 40 mph. "However," the National Hurricane Center said, "environmental conditions are favorable for rapid intensification, which could occur if the cyclone develops a well-defined inner core."
- Natural Phenomena
- Rick Scott
- National Weather Service