Hurricane may threaten US Republican convention

Posted at 08/23/12 12:06 AM

MIAMI - A weather system swirling in the eastern Caribbean has raised the remote possibility that this year's Republican National Convention could be more blustery than usual.

The tropical depression east of Guadeloupe is expected to swell into Tropical Storm Isaac later Tuesday, and forecasters say it could become a hurricane on track to hit Florida next week, when Republicans gather in Tampa.

The US National Hurricane Center's five-day forecast shows the storm blowing over the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba but does not extend to Monday, when the four-day convention kicks off.

"It is too early to determine what, if any, impacts might be experienced in the Tampa area next week during the RNC," said Dennis Feltgen of the US National Weather Service.

"The US is not yet in the forecast track cone, and there is a great deal of uncertainty beyond that five-day time frame."

Thousands of party luminaries, top officials and supporters will convene in the Gulf coast city starting Monday to formally nominate Mitt Romney to challenge President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

The convention is largely a formality -- Romney has been the presumptive nominee for months -- but will feature prime-time speeches by the party's leading lights aimed at rallying supporters to deny Obama a second term.

Obama's Democratic Party will hold its own convention September 4-6.

Meteorologist Jeffrey Masters, writing on wunderground.com last week, pointed out that there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa in the past 25 years during the peak three-month hurricane season of August to October.

He puts the chances of such an evacuation during next week's convention at "somewhere in the one to three percent range."

"It would take a 'perfect storm' sort of conditions to all fall in place to bring (the tropical depression) to the doorstep of Tampa as a hurricane during the convention, but that is one of the possibilities the models have been suggesting could happen," he told AFP by email.

The convention center would have to be evacuated in the event of a category one hurricane, and in the worst-case scenario of a category four hurricane, it would be submerged under 20 feet of water, according to Masters.