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GOP Convention Plans Proceed as Tropical Storm Approaches

  • Peter Heinlein

Workers carry balloons to be dropped from the ceiling at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 24, 2012.

Workers carry balloons to be dropped from the ceiling at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 24, 2012.

The U.S. Republican Party is making final preparations for its convention in the southern state of Florida with one eye on a big storm expected to hit the state's western coast, possibly on Monday. The latest forecast is giving convention organizers hope, although the first full day of the convention has been set back one day.

Meteorologists say Tropical Storm Isaac is poorly organized as it churns toward the Gulf of Mexico. Latest forecasts indicate it is drifting further west than earlier expected as it crosses Haiti and Cuba and heads toward the western side of Florida, where Tampa is located.

National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb says it is impossible to predict where, or even if, the storm will hit Florida.

"We don't know quite frankly exactly what shape Isaac will be in when it emerges somewhere north of Cuba over the weekend or late in the weekend," said Knabb. "So there's both track and intensity uncertainty here and that's why we can't pinpoint any one spot in South Florida or any one spot elsewhere in Florida that would receive the strongest winds or the heaviest rains and flooding and highest storm surges along the coast."

Tropical Storm Issac in the Caribbean (Photo: NOAA)

Tropical Storm Issac in the Caribbean (Photo: NOAA)

Knabb says everything possible is being done to monitor Isaac's movement, including flying airplanes directly into the eye of the storm.

"We are throwing all kinds of aircraft resources at Isaac. In terms of flying the NOAA P-3 Hurricane Hunters into the storm. Our friends at the Air Force, the C-130 Hurricane Hunters," he said. "They've been forward deploying to the Caribbean and flying into Isaac there, [they] are operational workhorses to get data from within the storm."

The Republican Party convention was originally due to open in Tampa Monday, just as the storm could pass through the area. Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott says plans for the nationally televised event are moving forward regardless of the weather.

“Right now it's full speed ahead. We're going to have a great convention," Scott said. "We're looking forward to the delegates coming. We're going to keep them safe. We do this. It's what we do for a living in Florida. We're a hospitality state that knows how to deal with hurricanes.”

Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told CNN “there's no such thing as canceling” the convention.

The highlight of the four-day event is expected to be the nomination of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for president.