With Isaac headed toward New Orleans, Republican National Convention officials are considering a number of worst-case scenarios including a quick roll call and a truncated speech by Mitt Romney.
Officials conceded on the record for the first time Monday that plans for an already shortened three-day convention were in doubt. “We’re hoping we go forward with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” said James Davis, communications director for the convention. “We are agile and we can move things around but we’re planning for” a three-day convention.
A senior GOP official said no decision had been made and none was likely Monday, but said the convention conceivably could be as short as a single day.
One of the worst-case scenarios would be Romney delivering a brief speech declaring the emergency is bigger than politics, shuttering the convention and turning the public’s attention to the Gulf Coast.
"That might not be the worst-case scenario” politically for Romney if he’s seen as putting people ahead of politics, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss convention options.
It's Friday morning, and we're all waiting to see the noon forecast for Isaac. They're saying that a lot of the tracks keep Isaac west of Tampa, but not all the tracks. Certainly the most important thing for everyone in the cone of uncertainty is to prepare. It's been years since a major hurricane made a direct hit on the US, but even "minor" ones have had serious impacts (think Irene and Vermont last year) so it's critical for those in the projected impact areas to avoid complacency. So if you're in the potential path, get your generator, board your windows, prepare your emergency kit, and make your plans in case evacuation is necessary. End public service announcement - back to our regularly scheduled politics.
If the Tampa convention is impacted, there are number of things that are both good and bad for Mitt and his minions. First up, Sunday. A lot of people will descend on Tampa for the convention. If air travel is disrupted, that's a blow to the people that can get there, especially as flights are pushed out. Most planes are flying near capacity, and if enough flights are cancelled initially, some people might not make the first few days. Unlikely that would include the major press outlets. But its disruptive.
Further, no matter where Isaac hits, they'll likely cut short their evenings, as happened with Hurricane Jeanne in 2008. Remember that the reason that the massive influx of dark money into political advertising hasn't moved the needle much is not just that there are few undecideds. It appears from all polling data that the more people get to "know" Mittens, the more they dislike him. All the negative advertising against President Obama doesn't touch a lot of people, they've had years to get to know him. They might not like the economy, but they like him. Mittens? Not so much. They're going to absolutely hate him if the GOP is seen partying and nominating and having a grand old time while people in other parts of the Gulf are losing their homes, injured, and possibly killed.
Likely, if there is disruption to the convention, it will just be shortened and not moved. It only changes dates if by tonight the paths indicate a direct hit on Tampa. Moving it causes all sorts of logistic nightmares, and once we're into September, there are football games to contend with, the Jewish holidays (and having 0% black support, limited women, Hispanic and young voters, means he needs to hold onto his 15% Jewish support, and he won't win any friends speaking during the holiest days of the Jewish year) and the debates.
[From Matt: Changing the dates of the convention is very problematic. In addition to the issues DocJess raises, there are two others. First, logistical: Hotels will not be available, and the venue might not be available. Second, legal. Some states require an official nominee 60 days before the election. Deadlines would be very close. They could always officially nominate Romney outside of the convention, but Kerry got a lot of flack for floating that idea in 2004 (in order to get his general election money early)]
There is no way to say this without coming off callous, and I honestly do want Isaac to dissipate and die in the Gulf (yeah, I know, not likely, the water is too warm) because I don't like to see the destruction, but, you have to admit that the potential for snark is huge. All those years of hearing the wacko right wingnuts talk about divine retribution and then they take a direct hit during their festivities?
And so we wait and watch. I meant what I said in the first paragraph: get ready if you're in the path. Complacency kills.
The latest storm track has Isaac traveling along Florida's western coast early next week. This could very well be the second consecutive Republican National Convention that loses a day to hurricanes.
(Updates from Matt: Tampa officially has a 3% chance of receiving 60 mph winds, and a 14% chance of receiving Tropical Storm winds (35 mph).
Also, there is another storm forming in the East Atlantic about a week behind Isaac, and the very long range forecasts show it as a decent hurricane off the coast of North Carolina the following week. Just saying...)
Officials in Florida are holding a disaster planning drill to determine just how bad a Category 3 hurricane would be for the Republican National Convention.
This week, he and other state Emergency Management officials will run through the nightmare scenario of a major hurricane hitting Tampa during the middle of the convention. The storm, nicknamed "Hurricane Gispert" for Hillsborough's recently retired EOC director, will follow the path of the last major storm to hit Tampa Bay, the Hurricane of 1921.
"The impacts would be devastating," said Brian LaMarre of the National Weather Service in Ruskin. He is among the team of meteorologists helping to coordinate with the U.S. Secret Service for just such a scenario. The week of the convention, a team from the Ruskin office will staff the emergency operations center in Tampa around the clock.
"Downtown Tampa would be under water, transportation would be severed," says LaMarre. "If we see a category 1 impact downtown Tampa at high tide, the bridges will no longer be passable." - WTSP
Matt has written repeatedly about hurricanes and conventions (see here, here, here, here and here). The biggest takeaway from his posts is this:
The chance of a hurricane hitting Tampa Bay the week of the convention are probably less than 1 percent, a National Hurricane Center scientist estimates. ...
"For a major hurricane, it's a rare event," said Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
In August, most hurricanes move east to west. So Tampa Bay, on Florida's west coast, tends to be a "little shielded," he said.
Landsea puts the chances of a hurricane hitting the Tampa Bay area during August at about 2 to 3 percent.
For any given week in August, the chance may be one-half of 1 percent — or possibly up to 1 percent if 2012 is an especially busy hurricane season.
I don't think people should be worried about hurricanes in Tampa... they should be worried about earthquakes.
And just in case you think Charlotte reporters aren't joining in the fun there's this:
The peak of hurricane season is usually around Sept. 10, but the peak activity in the Carolinas is the first week of September.
That week happens to coincide with the DNC this year.
Lewis Collins is concerned about what his trip to work in uptown Charlotte will be like in early September.
"It's going to be a madhouse," he said.
But he's also concerned about a hurricane hitting the coast - or possibly further inland -- at the same time. Collins said he still remembers everything about 1989, the year Hurricane Hugo hit. - WSOC
With weather, it's all about where you are. A few miles in any direction can make a huge amount of difference. On Saturday, at my house, we received a minor amount of snow. (Yes, it was Fiona's first time, poor video after the jump, I'm still learning.)
But on Sunday, I needed to go to New Jersey for a stone unveiling, and it was like entering another reality. About 20 of us met at a diner for brunch before going to the cemetery. Not at the first choice, as that restaurant was closed due to a lack of power. Gas was a problem, with most stations closed due to a lack of power. Roads were closed due to downed trees, live wires and abandoned cars. One of the towns, the radio said, had received 19 inches of snow.
I sat at a table with my best friend and some of her family. She pointed out to me that one of the men was a Republican. "No I'm not," he said indignantly, "I'm now an independent." He very proudly mentioned that he'd voted for Obama. When asked why he gave up his lifelong GOP registration, he said simply, "They're nuts." He then ordered a veggie burger. Looking around the table, one person had ordered a tuna sandwich, and everyone else chose something vegetarian. It crossed my mind: is there a political association of who eats meat with political party? Or perhaps just lighter food because the upcoming activity was so weighty? Don't know, but I'm thinking of looking into the question.
I spent a fair amount of time driving in North Jersey, going around detours, looking at how the prior 24 hours had so altered the terrain. And what I thought about, in addition to my memories of a wonderful woman who had been like a second mother, was how important government is during trying times.
While it was the power companies out bringing the wires back up, much of the plowing was the purview of the government. As were the warming stations and shelters. Likewise the people directing vehicles at some major intersections devoid of the normal traffic lights. It appears that power may not be restored in parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, NY, Connecticut and some other states for up to a week. Today schools, shops and businesses will remain closed. The only upside is that the weather will warm.
There is a lot of press on the Occupy Movement, and how the police are cracking down on people just plain exercising their first amendment rights. If the identical peaceful protests were going on in another country, our government would be yelling about allowing the people their democratic rights.
And there's the incongruity: in disaster, we desperately need government immediately: roads, power, food, water, shelter. And with the exception of Katrina under Shrub, our government has responded. But when the problem is something less transparent: poverty, foreclosures, unemployment, inequity, failing schools, corruption, our government seems MIA. Only willing to beat down those that point out the problems.
What happens between local cooperation and national insanity? No one cares about political party when the issue is getting help to local people who need warmth and sustenance. It's very rare that people, except for national Republican elected officials, ask or even care where that money will come from. And then they yell "yay" when people are beaten standing up for more teachers, cops and firemen.
With an area as large as was impacted by Irene, it's hard to really understand what happened for a number of days. The media send out their people to the most likely places to be impacted, and to major cities, but large disasters don't always hit exactly where they are forecast to do so. Then, the media go with what they have, and skip over the rest. You need to see the local news to have a sense, and that data doesn't always filter out for a while. 21 people are confirmed dead at this writing, hopefully that number will not rise, and thankfully the number is still in double-digits and not higher. So far: six in North Carolina, four in Virginia, four in Pennsylvania, two in New York, two in Florida and one each in Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.
Kudos to the locals, Feds and state officials who all worked together to get the warnings out, make proper preparations, and minimize loss of life. As someone who sustained major damage last year in a blizzard I'm here to tell you: "stuff" costs money to fix, it's a pain in the rear, and it's horrible. But you can always get more stuff: lives are irreplaceable.
Here in PA, Tom Corbett put together a great team: state, local and Federal. People were staged not just in Philadelphia, but in other places. The governor was on the news every few hours letting people know what was going on. Mayor Nutter was the face of Southeastern PA. While the national news focused on Philadelphia only, which took damage, the 'burbs, which took more damage, were fundamentally ignored beyond the local media. It appears to be a similar situation in other states, too.
From what I understand, all of us north of the Hampton Roads area were spared what could have been much worse because Irene basically stalled over North Carolina, disrupting the eye, and breaking down the ability of Irene to suck more water from the Atlantic. Thus, we all got the leading edge, but missed the winds that would have come had the storm been faster.
New York City was spared, but the surrounding suburbs were not. Boston seems to have escaped major damage, but more inland areas in New England are in pretty bad shape.
There will be a lot of talk over the next few days about whether the government and the media overreacted. Ron Paul has already said that there should be no FEMA, the locals can take care of everything. Eric Cantor (whose district includes the epicenter of last Tuesday's earthquake) says no money should be spent on disasters unless is comes from somewhere else (think: Social Security). Some will say that because it wasn't as bad as it could have been, the preparations were a waste of time and money.
But they're missing the point. Better this situation than what happened in the Gulf 6 years ago. Shelters were used, and people went home after. Workers were deployed, and lives were saved. There's a lot of damage, and a lot of cleanup left to do. Had Irene been a little quicker, or wobbled a little differently, it would have been far uglier. And then these same naysayers would be blaming all levels of government for not being in place quickly enough.
Kudos to the first responders, to the officials who planned. Government did what government was supposed to do: Irene could have made Katrina look like a minor inconvenience. Better to be prepared then to be the stadium in New Orleans.
By the way, Nick Kristoff tweeted this yesterday:
@ NickKristof: If only the century-long threat of climate change would arouse as much mobilization as the day-long threat of #Irene.
I'm not putting up a map. You can't avoid the maps. The one with the track. The one with the potential other tracks. The one with the Jet Streak overlaying the Jet Stream. The one with the NYC evacuation areas. The ones from the other states. Politics is less important in times of disaster (unless you're FEMA under Brownie and Shrub) and having heard both Fat Boy Slim and Crooked Corbett, along with Mayors Nutter and Bloomberg, they're all doing all the right things for a storm that will affect 65 million people.
There are some glitches: buses loaded with no destination yet set. The people living in the tunnels near the subways due to close tomorrow. But for the most part, even the Republicans are doing the right things in terms of staging people, preemptively ordering suspension of rules, and enforcement of others, and properly preparing. Here in PA, the Crook did right by allowing suspension of the rules for departments which normally need clearances. Thus, if PennDOT needs to move heavy equipment on roads it normally wouldn't allow, they can just say yes without a paperwork nightmare. In addition, he noted that anyone gouging on essentials would be prosecuted.
If you're in the path, the Red Cross has a good checklist here. They neglected one thing for those people who will be in the path, but likely able to shelter in place: fill your bathtub with water. If the water treatment plant loses power and you lose water, you'll have what to drink (especially if you read the Red Cross list) - but you'll need the bathtub water to flush your toilets.
I was in New Jersey during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and it wasn't great. This will be much worse. So, I'm doing everything I can to prepare...I hope you are, too, if you're in the path.
The Weather Channel just had a What Would Happen Tomorrow about a hurricane wiping out Tampa. While the chances of a hurricane during the convention are low, officials are making plans should the worst happen.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Charlotte N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx went to Washington this week with the same message:
Don't let the partisan rancor over the national debt get in the way of a proposed $110 million federal appropriation for security at next year's Republican and Democratic national conventions.
"In spite of the debt ceiling debate and the sort of overheated rhetoric, we have conventions to put on and the federal government has obligations to provide security costs," Buckhorn said Wednesday.
"Everyone that we spoke to acknowledged that that was correct," he said. "Where they differed was how the money was to be allocated. That was more of a process question."
For the two cities, the stakes could not be higher. The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 27-30, 2012 in Tampa. The Democratic National Convention takes place a week later in Charlotte. - St Petersburg Times
We've talked about weather affecting conventions plenty of times. You can see all of the posts from 2008 here. Last cycle a hurricane delayed the Republican National Convention and it was a thousand miles away.
As he looks ahead to hosting next year's Republican National Convention, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is upbeat, but blunt.
"The only thing that could make our life miserable is a hurricane," he said last week.
That's possible, but not likely.
The chance of a hurricane hitting Tampa Bay the week of the convention are probably less than 1 percent, a National Hurricane Center scientist estimates.
Still, it's not zero. So Buckhorn vows Tampa will not be caught off-guard. There will be, he said, no Katrina-style chaos.
According to Hurricane City, Tampa Bay gets "brushed or hit ever 2.04 years." So on average every 2.04 years Tampa sees some sort of tropical weather. The chances of it happening the week of the convention are slim but it would make for some unhappy convention-goers if it does.
Ask anybody from Charlotte about Hurricane Hugo and they'll tell you that Charlotte isn't immune.
Chances are good that neither city will see any major storms. Tampa is all but guaranteed to see rain though.
I was going to do a different post this morning, mainly around the dysfunctional Senate and the Health Care Summit, but I added some comments on that in Jessica's post, so today I will comment on a different topic that I have had fun with this week. Climate Change. First I'll set up why. I have been on a Texas fishing message board ever since my back forced me to stop working last fall. They have an Off-Topic area where one of the sections is political orientated. Needless to say, Texas Sportsmen are mostly Right to Far Right in thinking. "Global Warming" has been a "Hot" topic for the to poke fun at this winter,
Well, me being one to try to point out the Truth, I just had to step up and try to present or inject Facts into the conversations. The misinformed souls fight facts with the same Republican talking points, and fight facts as irrelevant, it's amazing. When I presented them with:
INAUGURATION DAY LOOKS DRY ACROSS THE WASHINGTON AREA WITH A MORE UPSLOPE SNOW OCCURRING OVER THE HIGHLANDS. THE DRY FORECAST FOR WASHINGTON IS A MODERATE TO REASONABLY HIGH CONFIDENCE FORECAST. THERE WILL REMAIN PLENTY OF STRATOCU UNDER AN UPPER TROUGH...SO THE SKY WAS INCREASED TO MOSTLY CLOUDY. TEMPERATURES WILL BE COLDER...HIGHS ONLY IN THE LOWER 30S...WHICH COMBINED WITH A BRISK WIND THAT MAY GUST TO 25 MPH AT TIMES MAY PRODUCE WIND CHILL VALUES IN THE TEENS. THOSE OUT AND ABOUT ON TUESDAY SHOULD DRESS FOR THESE COLD CONDITIONS. -NWS
As we've been discussing for many days now, it's going to be cold. The difference between today's forecast and earlier ones is that we're now predicting high temperatures won't rise above freezing as the cold air mass appears to be deeper than we had been thinking. If there's any snow cover, that would make it even colder -- but that doesn't look terribly likely at the moment.
The wind won't be howling, but will make its presence felt blowing from the north at 10-15 mph -- with wind chills in teens in the morning and 20s in the afternoon.
As for snow, we're still thinking it's pretty unlikely. But there's enough uncertainty with the timing and strength of waves riding south along the jet stream that it's premature to remove it from the forecast.