Florida Gov. Rick Scott today sought to calm fears about a possible hurricane threatening to close down the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa, Fla., telling reporters this afternoon, "Right now, there is not any anticipation there will be a cancellation."
Scott, a Republican, said it is "still too early" to know exactly where Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to intensify into a hurricane on Friday, will hit Florida and, thus, too early to make evacuation plans, or postpone or call off the convention.
"If you look at the projected path, it looks like we'll have some wind and some rain," Scott said."But we are going to have a great convention. We look forward to the delegates coming and we're going to keep them safe."
Scott said he personally spoke with likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney about Florida's storm preparations.
"I gave him assurance that this is a state that has dealt with hurricanes in the past and we are ready if that happens; but again, hopefully that doesn't happen," Scott said. "The nice thing would be is if it turns into a nice little rainstorm. That would be nice."
By most predictions, bad weather looms next week for Tampa. Heavy rains and strong winds are likely to pound the city early Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the start of the Republican National Convention, where GOP delegates will nominate Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, to take on President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in November.
Tropical Storm Isaac is heading along a western track, dumping rain on Puerto Rico this morning and swirling about 1,000 miles off the Florida coast as of 5 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm has shifted father west throughout Thursday and is now predicted to hit about 150 miles west of Tampa.
"The hope is this is going to go away, but if it doesn't, the convention is ready, the state is ready and the local communities are ready," Scott said.
Republican National Convention CEO William Harris said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the RNC is tracking the storm, but that they "continue to move forward" with the convention plans.
"Gov. 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," Harris said in the statement. "We continue to move forward with our planning and look forward to a successful convention."
But while Scott and GOP convention planners are hoping for the best, "nothing indicates this thing is going to go away," said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
"Unfortunately, we can't wish this one away," he said. "The best-case scenario for the state of Florida is that it's far enough west that it will have minimal impact."
At the Sirata Beach Resort in St. Petersburg, about 30 miles from the Tampa Convention Center, where the New Jersey and Minnesota delegations are staying, there is little concern about the impending tropical storm.
Rather than canceling reservations, delegates are trying to come in early, moving their reservations to Saturday or Sunday instead of Monday. They have had 100 additional reservations for Saturday and Sunday in the past few days.
"It's rain, it's really just rain," said Cricket Wagner, the director of sales at Sirata Beach Resort. "Hotels ... don't have the cheap aluminum roof on them. They're not going to blow over."
Wagner said because of their convention prep, they are more prepared for a hurricane than usual. They have extra generators, which they plan to use for a convention beach party Monday night but can use to power the ballrooms during a hurricane. And they have a refrigerated semi-truck full of extra food in the parking lot that they plan to use for the party, but can divert to hurricane back-up food if need be.
While prediction models are notoriously inaccurate this far in advance, Isaac is projected to slam into Haiti Saturday morning and hit Florida about 150 miles west of Tampa in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The city, which by then will be buzzing with about 50,000 Republican delegates, journalists and protesters, could see 70 mph winds, coastal flooding and heavy rains.
"It will be a dangerous situation," ABC meteorologist Max Golembo said. "It's somewhere between the galoshes and Noah's Ark."
Golembo gave the storm a 50 percent chance of hitting Tampa. After the storm passes over the high mountains of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it is expected to dump 20 inches of rain and cause mudslides and flooding, and through Cuba Sunday morning, prediction models will have a clearer picture of how damaging the storm could be for the Tampa Bay area.
While Isaac looks to be heading farther west of Tampa that originally projected, it will likely deliver hurricane-force winds of 75 mph or greater, strong enough to break windows, down trees and damage roofs, Golembo said.
If winds exceed 45 mph, some of the bridges connecting downtown Tampa, where the bulk of the GOP convention action will be, with the hotels where some delegates are staying, will have to be closed, said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.