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View From Tampa: How Will Tropical Storm Isaac Impact RNC Plans?

Cloudy skies over the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which is hosting the Republican National Convention. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

TAMPA, Fla. | Tropical Storm Isaac hit Tampa with rain and wind Monday morning as the 2012 Republican National Convention got underway with an abbreviated session. The storm is gaining strength as it moves swiftly through the Gulf of Mexico.

The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center indicates that the storm is getting better organized as it moves west-northwestward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It is expected to intensify into a hurricane within the next 24-36 hours as it moves on a course that would have it hitting the mid-Gulf coast on the same path and timing as Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The current storm track points toward a possible landing near Gulfport, Miss. late Tuesday or early Wednesday. It was this Area 9 that experienced the strongest storm surge from Hurricane Katrina.

Convention planners scrambled Sunday to readjust speaking schedules making the decision to turn the convention into a three-day affair due to the possible impact of Tropical Storm Isaac as it brushed the west Florida coast. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a previously scheduled speaker on Tuesday, put his plans to attend the convention on a temporary hold as he waited for more clarity about the Isaac’s ultimate landfall location. Other Republican governors in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, were making similar calculations.

According to the New York Times, Jindal asked for voluntary evacuations in 15 low-lying parishes on or near the Gulf Coast and authorized the National Guard to mobilize 4,000 members if needed due to the likelihood that his state could face a direct hit from a storm that is now predicted to be a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour as it makes landfall.

While initial plans to adjust the convention schedule reflected concerns about weather in the Tampa area on Monday, planners also have concerns later in the week about the split screen television images of a hurricane bearing down on the Louisiana and Mississippi coast at exactly the same time as convention delegates revel in the nomination of their presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The likelihood of sharing the news spotlight with the storm could be a cause for concern as party officials had hoped Thursday’s nomination speech would give Romney the momentum to create a different kind of surge propelling him past President Obama in the fall campaign.

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