Just like Tropical Storm Isaac appears to be doing, Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials on Friday set their sites on other parts of the state, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.
As forecasts moved Isaac farther away from a direct impact on Tampa – set to host the Republican National Convention on Monday – Scott and other officials tried to focus on parts of the state that might feel some of the storm’s impact.
“At this point, everybody is comfortable were going to have a great convention,” Scott said. “The delegates are coming down. They’re going to have a great experience. They’re going to see maybe a little bit of rain and little bit of wind.”
But in the Keys, eyes were still trained squarely on an approaching storm.
Scott told reporters Friday that the state will wait before making any decision on whether to declare a state of emergency or require residents of the island chain to evacuate. The Keys are expected to feel the storm’s impact as early as Sunday afternoon, but with only one road to the mainland decisions to evacuate aren’t made lightly.
“At this point, we don’t see that we need to evacuate (the Keys),” Scott said. “If you look at the forecast it’s a tropical storm.”
Residents of the Panhandle – particularly those in areas that were soaked earlier this year by Tropical Storm Debbie – were also being advised to keep an eye on the system.
“As it moves north into the Panhandle, we will be looking very closely at the areas that were impacted by Tropical Storm Debbie and had all the rain we’ve had over the past six weeks or so,” said Bryan Koon, director of the Division of Emergency Management.
The western Panhandle, including the area around Pensacola, could end up in the storm’s path, though that would be later in the week.
In regard to the RNC, Scott said local law enforcement is prepared to handle both the national convention and any additional workload necessitated by the storm.
Some 4,000 law enforcement personnel are expected in the Tampa Bay region for the convention, which is expected to play host to 50,000 delegates, journalists and other tourists.
“We are prepared for the RNC and for the tropical storm around the state from a law enforcement standpoint,” Scott said.
In addition nearly 250 FEMA representatives are already stationed in north Florida after responding to Debbie.
At 11 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located about 185 miles south southeast of Port Au Prince, Haiti. It was expected to turn toward the northwest later Friday and approach the southern coast of Hispaniola today. Landfall is expected in Cuba on Sunday.
Tropical storm winds were being felt 185 miles from the storm’s center.
As the state’s top tourism booster, Scott encouraged delegates and other guests to come to Florida for the convention. So far the message appears to be getting out.
“I’ve been talking to mayors and sheriffs from around the state,” Scott said. “There is no indication that people are deciding not to come. They shouldn’t (cancel plans). This is a state that understands hurricanes. “
Along with brochures on where to eat and what to see, convention goers will also be given safety advice on rip currents and other severe weather hazards.
“Many of them will be staying in beachfront hotels and will want to take advantage of the beautiful locations,” Scott said. “We want to make sure they understand what a rip tide is, how to recognize the signs of it.”