GOP eyes not just on Mitt, but Isaac

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With Tropical Storm Isaac heading into the Caribbean, Florida officials said Wednesday it’s too early to tell how the storm may affect the upcoming Republican National Convention slated to begin Monday in Tampa. reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

But they said the state is as ready as it can be.

“I am confident in our preparation, and the decision process in place to ensure the safety of both our residents and visitors during the convention,” Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement.

With thousands of delegates and media scheduled to begin arriving in a matter of days, Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said preparations that began months ago continue, but final decisions are still days away.

“The (Republican National Convention), I will tell you, is a complicating factor,” Koon said in an interview with the News Service Wednesday. “As far a hurricane goes, we will be preparing much like we normally do in these situations.”

National Hurricane Center forecasts have put the Republican bash in Isaac’s potential path. Still more than a thousand miles off shore, the storm’s exact track won’t be clear for a couple of days.

The state had already planned to elevate its emergency response level on Sunday in anticipation of the convention. That may now happen sooner.

“There are a lot of people interested in the potential overlap of the two events there so we have to make sure we are coordinating properly with the (RNC’s) Committee on Arrangements,” Koon said.

He said the decision on whether the convention goes forward will likely be made by the party, not state emergency officials, though government agencies will provide as much information as possible to help the RNC make that call.

“They have a bigger picture to think about: how they get their convention business done –so we have not established a drop dead date,” Koon said. “But we are making sure they are fully aware of the forecast at this point, the uncertainty of the forecast at this point and the time of arrival et cetera….”

That said, convention goers will be treated like any other visitors. That means they may be required to move depending on the path of the storm.

“There are many parts of Tampa Bay area that are in evacuation zones because of the low lying nature of the terrain there,” Koon said.

In May, state emergency responders conducted a tabletop exercise that considered a Category 3 hurricane hitting Tampa Bay. The irony was not lost on the former Wal-Mart executive who now oversees the state’s emergency preparedness.

The practice exercise allowed state officials to work with local responders and federal agencies, in what may have been a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

One contingency not factored in to that exercise was the loss of the division’s email system. Tangled up in a thwarted attempt to migrate to a new statewide email system, the division will be without email access beginning Wednesday evening as the state reverts to another server system.

Plans are for the email to be running again Thursday.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.