Tampa Gears Up For RNC And A Possible Storm

NPR's Greg Allen reports on dual preparations in Tampa, Fla., for next week's Republican National Convention and the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac.

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While some 70,000 visitors are expected for the Republican National Convention, it's not the only big event heading towards Tampa. On Tuesday, another important visitor could be on the way, though perhaps not directly through Tampa - Tropical Storm Isaac. As of now, Isaac is still in the Caribbean. But as NPR's Greg Allen reports from Tampa, it's likely to be a hurricane when it passes near the city later in the week.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: State and city officials along with convention planners were relieved this week when Isaac's forecast track, which had a bull's-eye on Tampa, shifted to the West. Emergency managers and Republican officials say they have contingency plans ready if a hurricane hits during the convention. But as the storm track shifted west into the Gulf, Florida Governor Rick Scott said plans for the RNC were full speed ahead.

Head of the state's Division of Emergency Management Bryan Koon said his agency was preparing a brochure for delegates with information about what to expect.

BRYAN KOON: We've also put information in there about tropical storm watches, tropical storm warnings and hurricane watches and warnings. So should they hear that messaging while they're in Florida, they understand exactly what that means and what actions they should be taking or at least understand the overall situation.

ALLEN: Governor Scott says hotels are reporting few cancellations. He said delegates will experience wind and rain, but that the convention will go on. But as happens with tropical storms, Isaac has continued to evolve. It's a large storm that held together as it passed over Haiti that now seems likely to strengthen into a hurricane by the time it reaches Florida on Monday.

Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center said those who think Tampa will get off lightly may be wrong.

DENNIS FELTGEN: Well, it's a misnomer that they're not going to get direct impacts. They will from this thing. As you know, hurricanes are not a dot on a map. They're large storms with impacts over a large area. And Isaac is no exception. The tropical storm force winds extend outward quite a distance.

ALLEN: The current track shows Isaac passing 200 miles west of Tampa but still close enough to bring powerful winds, rain and possible flooding to the area. As a precaution, convention organizers said the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Mitt Romney will be nominated, will operate on generator power to prevent outages. A large section of Tampa's downtown has been cordoned off for the convention. Some 3,500 law enforcement officers will be patrolling the area.

Outside of the secure zone, restaurants and bars are getting ready for what everyone hope will be a big week. At Hattricks, a hockey-themed sports bar just blocks from the arena, manager and partner David Mangione says his business is booked all week for VIP parties.

DAVID MANGIONE: But it is our time to showcase what we do, and, you know, maybe the next time they come back to Tampa, this is going to be the destination for them.

ALLEN: Tampa received some $50 million in federal money to pay for security. Between that money, cash raised from corporate donors and delegate spending, the RNC is expected to bring a windfall to the city, pumping $170 million in direct spending into Tampa's economy. Greg Allen, NPR News, Tampa.

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