“What a revoltin’ development,” Chester Riley of the classic radio show Life of Riley used to exclaim regularly. No doubt Chester would have said it with extra panache about the coming of Hurricane Isaac which is expected to hit Tampa, Florida just in time for the GOP convention next week.
Forecasters are near unanimous in their belief that Tampa is in for a spot of weather next week. How bad it will be depends on the vagaries of the hurricane’s track as well as how much it might strengthen between now and when it brushes the west coast of Florida probably on Sunday and Monday.
Issac is forecast to reach the eastern Gulf of Mexico early next week around the time of the scheduled start of the Republican National Convention.
This track will bring bands of heavy rain, thunderstorms, gusty winds, urban flooding and above normal tides to the Florida west coast, including the Tampa area. Such a track will also bring the potential for a few tornadoes, even if the center remains offshore over the Gulf.
Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to become a hurricane later this week as it moves west-northwestward, touring the northern Caribbean with squalls of heavy rain, gusty winds and rough seas.
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists anticipate the storm curving to the northwest later this weekend into early next week.
The severity of the conditions would depend on how close the system tracks to the west coast of Florida, the angle of the track, versus the coast and intensity of the storm itself.
A small, minimal tropical storm may bring significant impact from rain, wind and waves 100 miles or less from the center and would be more of an inconvenience with minor travel delays.
A large Category 3 hurricane would have much more severe impact and damaging weather including downed trees, power outages, coastal flooding and flight cancellations hundreds of miles away from the center. However, odds at this time favor more on the order of a category 1 or 2.
At present forward speed (approximately 20 mph), the greatest impact in the Tampa area is likely to occur Monday into Tuesday with conditions potentially deteriorating during Sunday night, depending on the nature of spiral bands preceding the system.
The worst case, but rare scenario from a Tampa standpoint would be if Isaac were to take a path by swinging over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, strengthen significantly, then curve northeastward toward or just north of the city on the Florida west coast.
Tampa’s Mayor Bob Buckhorn is “absolutely prepared to call off” the GOP convention if he believes public safety calls for it. And the RNC says it has “contingency plans” in case the hurricane delays the convention:
“We do have contingency plans to deal with weather-related and other circumstances that may occur to ensure that … the business can go on at the RNC and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will become our nominees and that the safety of the folks here attending it and in the Tampa Bay community are taken care of,” RNC communications director Sean Spicer said on CNN’s “Starting Point.”
Spicer said on CNN that canceling the convention isn’t an option. “There is no such thing as canceling,” Spicer said.
Travel could be a nightmare on Sunday if the hurricane track takes it where forecasters think it will be. The RNC will have to decide whether to go ahead with a convention in a half filled arena.
The conventions will be forgotten in a week, so it’s not critical to victory for Romney to get all the nice visuals and speechifying that he’d get from a normal convention. But Mitt has to think he’s snake bit if the GOP convention is marred by an force of nature he can do nothing about.