WASHINGTON -- Republican Party officials remained upbeat Thursday that their national convention in Tampa, Fla., would be unaffected by Tropical Storm Isaac, currently heading toward Florida.
"We continue to move forward with our planning and look forward to a successful convention," said William Harris, CEO of the Republican National Convention. He said Romney/Ryan campaign and convention planners were in "regular contact" with state emergency officials and with Gov. Rick Scott (R), who he said "assured us that they have the resources in place to respond to this storm should it make landfall."
On Capitol Hill, top Republicans who will attend the convention had yet to receive a briefing on emergency plans from convention organizers or the Republican National Committee, according to a senior aide who spoke to The Huffington Post on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal party communications. Most convention attendees will arrive over the weekend, a few days ahead of the predicted storm.
In Florida, however, the situation was being taken more seriously. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Thursday urged residents to stock up with at least 72 hours worth of supplies, and to monitor weather reports for possible evacuation orders. The agency also dispatched a liaison from Washington to coordinate federal and state emergency preparations.
Scott partially activated the state Emergency Operations Center. “Obviously, we are hoping Isaac doesn’t hit Florida, but we must take every precaution,” Scott said in a statement Thursday evening. “That’s what we’re doing on a state level, and it’s what everyone should be doing on a family and personal level. If you haven’t already, get prepared and get a plan.”
The warnings offer little comfort to the more than 50,000 visitors expected in Tampa beginning Sunday for the four-day convention, which runs from Monday to Thursday.
"Monday are Tuesday are definitely in jeopardy," said meteorologist Bill Karins on MSNBC Thursday. "I don't see any way possible that Tampa's going to be completely missed at this point."
Isaac is moving northwest toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but storm-tracking software indicates Tampa and the Florida Keys are within the storm's trajectory. By early next week, Isaac is expected to reach Category 1 hurricane status as it makes landfall in the U.S., with sustained wind speeds of up to 95 mph, according to predictions.
Tampa's location on an inland bay makes the city especially vulnerable to tides that accompany storm surges. The Tampa Convention Center, where much of the GOP convention will be held, sits only six feet above sea level. The convention falls in the middle of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, but convention officials have said all along that "weather" is a possibility they have planned for.
The Romney campaign scheduled a conference call Friday morning to brief reporters about the convention program, which will likely includes some updated guidance on weather and emergency planning.