As forecasters predict Tropical Storm Isaac will become a hurricane by Thursday, the westward-moving system's 5-day forecast cone suggests a possibility it may head straight for the Sunshine State -- though it's too early to tell which coast may need to batten the hatches.
Isaac's center will move away from the Leeward Islands during the next few hours, the National Hurricane Center said at 11 p.m. Wednesday. The system is moving west at 20 mph with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and tropical storm-force winds extending 140 miles from the center.
Though Isaac is expected to strengthen over the next 48 hours, experts predict it will lose a bit of intensity interacting with the mountainous parts of Cuba and Hispaniola. It will likely then strengthen again over the warm water between Cuba and Florida while approaching the United States.
However, it remains too soon to predict if and where Isaac might make landfall in the U.S. The cone appears centered on Southwest Florida, but all of the southern half of the state remains a possibility and some tracks predict it may swing wide either direction after making an expected west-northwest turn near Hispanola.
(For another look at Isaac's possible track -- and to see how many directions this storm may yet take -- check out these models from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Tropical Cyclone and Severe Storms Research Group.)
Meanwhile, Floridians should keep an eye on updates.
“I’m urging everyone across the state to monitor the storm track, and use the next several days to prepare for a potential storm," said Florida Governor Rick Scott in a statement. "As we know, storms this far from land are still unpredictable and everyone should be vigilant and prepared.”
While GOP officials no doubt fret over Isaac impacting next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa, a hurricane watch is currently in effect for Haiti and the southern coast of the Dominican Republic from Isla Saona to the border with Haiti.