Tropical Storm Isaac may not disrupt the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week because its projected path has moved about 100 miles (161 kilometers) west, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.
“Everybody is moving forward,” Scott, a Republican, said today during a news briefing in Tallahassee, the state capital.
More than 50,000 people are expected to visit the Tampa Bay area for the four-day convention starting Aug. 27 to nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate, said James Davis, a spokesman for the event. The storm is forecast to become a hurricane as it approaches Florida and may reach the southwest corner of the state on the convention’s opening day, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Scott said there was no indication that convention attendance would decline because of the storm. Isaac gained strength in the Caribbean Sea and was expected to cross Haiti today, then move over eastern Cuba during the next few days.
The Hurricane Center’s current forecast has Isaac making landfall near Pensacola, close to the western edge of Florida’s panhandle, on Aug. 29. Scott said there was no need for evacuations “at this point.”
“It should be noted that there is significant uncertainty in tropical cyclone intensity predictions at three to five days,” the Hurricane Center said.
The odds it will hit Florida are about 30 percent, Matt Rogers, president of Bethesda, Maryland-based Commodity Weather Group LLC, said in an interview. Rogers said he increased the odds of Isaac plowing into the western Gulf of Mexico and going ashore somewhere from Texas to Louisiana to 45 percent.
“I am afraid we are not going to get this resolved by this weekend,” Rogers said.
Isaac was 185 miles south-southeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as of 11 a.m. East Coast time, the Miami-based hurricane center said in an advisory. The system, moving west-northwest at 14 miles per hour, had top sustained winds of 60 mph, up from 50 mph. A storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum, site of the convention, is in a mandatory evacuation zone once storm winds reach 96 mph, a Category 2 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Weather Service. Tampa is the second-biggest metropolitan area in Florida, after Miami, with almost 2.8 million people, Census data show.
Tampa International Airport is expecting 23,000 arrivals on Aug. 26 and 19,000 arrivals on Aug. 27, airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said in an interview. US Airways Group Inc. today issued a travel advisory for Monday and Tuesday affecting nine Florida locations, including Tampa, saying it will waive flight-change fees for affected passengers.