Tropical Storm Isaac didn’t make a direct hit on Tampa, but Republicans were forced to cancel the first day of their convention anyhow. Now, the storm could be on track to strike New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
While the storm turned west into the gulf, Tampa was still lashed with heavy rain and 40 mph winds, forcing Republican National Convention organizers to cancel activities scheduled for the first day of the convention. This marked the second straight GOP convention to lose a day to a tropical storm; organizers canceled the first day of activities in 2008 out of concerns that convention festivities would seem out-of-step with the landfall of Hurricane Gustav.
“The reason why we ultimately ended up making this decision was for the safety of our delegates and guests,” said RNC chair Reince Priebus in an interview with CNN. “We couldn’t really be assured of total safety over all the bridges over open water with sustained winds. The Secret Service took tents outside down and understandably so, but what that meant was fewer entrances into the building and people standing outside for a long time in the driving rain and wind.”
Republicans dismissed concerns that shortening the convention could hamper their ability to use the four-day event to make the case for Mitt Romney.
“We will absolutely be able to get our message out,” said Russ Schriefer, a senior strategist for the Romney campaign.
New Orleans in Isaac’s Sights
Isaac, meanwhile, moved along a northwesterly track that currently would lead to a Wednesday landfall in New Orleans as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane. The storm would come aground on the seventh anniversary of landfall of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina.
While Isaac is not projected to be as strong as Katrina, the storm could still do serious damage in a city still recovering from a storm that killed 1,833 people and did $108 billion in damage.
Isaac is forecast to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane by early Tuesday morning. Computer models suggest the storm could be anywhere between a Category 1 and a weak Category 3 at landfall. Nevertheless, Isaac is a very large storm, and could still bring a significant storm surge to the Gulf Coast.
Isaac is currently about 360 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, moving west-northwest at 14 miles per hour. The storm has sustained winds of 55 mph and gusts up to 65 mph.
Image Credit: NOAA