U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor doubts Tropical Storm Isaac will hinder RNC plans in Tampa

08/23/12 Janelle Irwin
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Wind and storm surge from Tropical Storm Isaac could wreak havoc on the Republican National Convention next week even if it doesn’t score a direct hit on Tampa. But at an event in St. Pete Beach Thursday morning, member of Congress Kathy Castor said the show will likely still go on.

“I seriously doubt the convention’s going to be called off.”

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Mayor Bob Buckhorn raised the specter of the convention being called off if evacuations are needed. Castor said she trusts his judgement.

“But Mayor Buckhorn is decisive and I know when he says he will take action, he will take action.”

Isaac could dump a lot of rain on Tampa for the convention. Castor said even if it only ends up being a rainmaker, there could still be some troubles ahead for visitors as they pour into the Tampa Bay area by the tens of thousands.

“I guess traffic, you’d have traffic congestion, but we’re used to this in the Tampa Bay area and I think the storm moves through quickly. It’s very important that folks are welcomed here and our small businesses and restaurants and everyone pulls in the same direction so that we can have a successful convention. This is a very important part of our economics in the Tampa Bay area convention so we want to make this one look good so that other conventions will come to the Tampa Bay area.”

Convention delegates will be spread among hotels in both Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties. The California delegation will be living it up on St. Pete Beach’s TradeWinds Island Resort. Keith Overton is the chief operating officer for the hotel. He said so far, it looks like business as usual.

“Well you know, it’s funny – most people here are only here for the RNC because everybody else thought they couldn’t get rooms which isn’t the case, we do have some rooms available and so far we have had any indicators that anybody’s cancelling, but they don’t get here until Saturday so they still have another day or two to watch the weather patterns. So, we’re a little worried that people will look at it and say, you know what I’m not going to take a chance and go down there.”

Preparations to safeguard both residents and visitors are well underway as all eyes start focusing on Tampa for the convention. It’s a routine emergency planners in the area knows well. But Wit Ostrenko, president of the Museum of Science and Industry, knows hurricanes. Museum patrons can even experience one in a hurricane simulator. He said storm threats to the Tampa Bay area tend to be empty.

“I’ve watched these hurricanes. The best part about it, if it’s aiming right at you, it probably won’t hit you. Like Charlie, remember that? It was going to go right up Tampa Bay, remember? And then I was up at 2 am and it made that right hand turn right into the central part of the state and went up the state. So, you just have to be on top of it watching it constantly.”

The convention is in evacuation zone A which is the first place people would be asked to leave.

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