A potential hurricane is posing a threat to next week’s Republican National Convention in Florida, which culminates in the nomination of Mitt Romney for presidential candidate.
The US National Hurricane Centre said tropical storm Isaac was expected to strengthen and could become a hurricane by Thursday, the last day of the gathering.
Convention organisers knew it was a possibility during the peak of hurricane season. About 70,000 delegates, party officials, journalists, protesters and others are expected to attend.
It is 90 years since a major hurricane made a direct hit on Tampa, the site of the convention. Florida, historically the nation’s top target for tropical systems, has not been hit by a major hurricane since Wilma in 2005.
National Hurricane Centre computer models had predicted Isaac would become a hurricane over the next few days, meaning maximum winds must be at least 74 mph. Some models had the storm striking Florida, including the Tampa Bay area, after moving across Cuba or the Bahamas as early as Sunday morning.
Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weatherunderground.com, said long-range storm track predictions five days in advance are notoriously inaccurate, often off an average of 260 miles. But he said the climate situation has improved chances that Florida could be in the system’s sights during the Republican event.
“It would take a perfect storm of a scenario where a bunch of factors all conspire together,” he said. “But we definitely have to watch this one.”
Tropical storm warnings were in effect for Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands and a swath of islands across the Caribbean including Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saab, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Culebra and Venues.
Republican and state officials have backup plans in place if the storm makes its way to Tampa, including an evacuation.
A four-day mock hurricane drill was held in May featuring a pretend major storm striking the Tampa area during the second day of the convention.