While there were few signs of the approaching storm in Tampa, convention officials called off most events until after the storm passes. They planned to convene briefly as planned on Monday, then delay most of the schedule until Tuesday afternoon.
Streets were already shut down around the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to accept his party’s presidential nomination Thursday night. Law enforcement milled about downtown, and some protests already were under way. One group protesting homelessness and the housing crisis “took over” a foreclosed home by cleaning the yard and planned to help a homeless couple move in.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and canceled his plans to attend convention events on Sunday and Monday.
A hurricane warning had been issued for the Florida Keys, and officials warned tourists to leave. Forecast models show Isaac likely won’t hit Tampa head-on, but it could lash the city with rain and strong winds just as the convention ramps up.
“I told some of my Democratic friends, ‘We are the storm, baby, we are the thunder,’” said Steve Linder, whose business is planning all events for the Michigan delegation. Linder added, smiling, “and it ain’t gonna stop until November.”
Dianne Joachim of New Richmond, Wis., was in town for her first convention and vowed not to let Isaac ruin it.
“I just figure God’s got this,” she said as she arrived at her downtown hotel.
Scott said during a media briefing that delegates were being told how to stay safe during a storm, and officials were ready for storm surge, bridge closures and other problems that could arise during the convention. He also said he was in close communication with local, state and federal agencies, as well as convention officials.
“We are a hospitality state. We know how to take care of people and we want to ensure their safety,” the governor said.
Isaac was blamed for at least three deaths after dousing flood-prone Haiti and was expected to scrape eastern Cuba on Saturday. It was forecast to hit the Keys late Sunday or early Monday, and it then could bring stormy conditions to Florida’s west coast before moving to the Panhandle.