MIAMI — Forecasters cast a wary eye Tuesday on Tropical Storm Isaac, which was moving west in the Atlantic Ocean and poses a potential threat to Florida during next week's Republican National Convention in Tampa.
It's much too early to say with any certainty whether it will gain hurricane strength or make a beeline for Tampa, on Florida's west coast. But it's the type of weather that convention organizers knew was a possibility during the peak of hurricane season – and they have backup plans in place in a worst-case scenario.
It's been 90 years since a major hurricane made a direct hit on Tampa. The last to strike Florida's west coast was Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 packing 150 mph winds. The Aug. 13, 2004, storm was small yet powerful – and was initially forecast to strike the Tampa Bay area before it turned and slammed Port Charlotte, about 100 miles south.
National Hurricane Center computer models predicted Isaac would become a hurricane over the next few days, meaning maximum winds must be at least 74 mph (120 kph). 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 (418 kilometers). But Masters said the climate situation has improved chances that Florida could be in the system's sights during the GOP event that runs Monday through Thursday.
"It would take a perfect storm of a scenario where a bunch of factors all conspire together," Masters said. "But we definitely have to watch this one."
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120822/us-tropical-weather-republican-convention/