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Isaac Could Be A Hurricane By Friday; Florida And GOP Convention Brace

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Here's the latest on tropical storm Isaac, which could hit Florida this weekend and drench the Republican National Convention in Tampa early next week:

-- The National Hurricane Center says the center of the storm should pass "to the south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today ... [then] approach the Dominican Republic tonight and Friday."

-- Latest readings indicate Isaac's winds "have decreased to near 40 mph ... [but] restrengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours. ... And Isaac could still become a hurricane on Friday before it reaches Hispaniola." (Update at 11:20 a.m. ET: The Hurricane Center's latest report is here. It is still looking for Isaac to strengthen on Friday.)

-- The "forecast cone" still has Isaac's eye passing over Cuba on Sunday, near or over South Florida early Monday and then up toward Tampa as Monday turns into Tuesday.

 

Tampa, of course, is welcoming more than 50,000 visitors (delegates, the media and others) and about 15,000 protesters for the Republican convention that's set to officially get started on Monday.

The city's mayor, Democrat Bob Buckhorn, told Tell Me More on Wednesday that "we're prepared to deal with this ... we live with this reality every storm season" and that he's "hopeful that the storm takes a difference course and heads east."

Public safety, Buckhorn added, "trumps politics" and of course could force a cancellation of the convention. But, he said, "we haven't been hit by a storm in 90 years and we're not expecting to be hit by this one."

More of what Buckhorn had to say will be on Tell Me More later today. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts the show.

According to The Tampa Tribune, Hillsborough County Emergency Management spokeswoman Holly Wade says that "if a hurricane or tropical storm is bearing down on Tampa, the priority of law enforcement is to evacuate residents, leaving GOP officials to make the decision of when to evacuate delegates."

"We provide the weather information, then we take that to the host committee, which decides if the event goes on or if the event gets altered," Wade told the Tribune.

As for whether the weather will turn nasty or dangerous in Tampa:

-- The Tampa Bay Times writes that "in one scenario, Isaac could turn north over eastern Cuba and skim, or completely miss, Florida and the East Coast. The more likely case, experts said, is that Isaac will turn north later and either hit Florida or drift west of the state and into the Gulf of Mexico."

-- Our colleagues at WUSF warn that while Isaac "could veer harmlessly into the Atlantic, or march through the middle of the Gulf ... most computer models have the storm hitting Tampa, possibly as a Category One hurricane."

Related story on Morning Edition: Hurricane Andrew's Legacy: 'Like A Bomb' In Florida.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

 

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