Sunday, August 26, 2012

Isaac Doesn't Like Republicans

Isaac gains strength, takes aim at Florida, GOP convention

By the CNN Wire Staff

updated 9:18 AM EDT, Sun August 26, 2012

Miami (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Isaac dumped rain and strong winds on Cuba early Sunday, picking up strength as it churned toward Florida and forced delays at the Republican National Convention.

The tropical storm was roughly 155 miles east of Havana and 135 miles east-southeast of Key West as of 8 a.m. ET Sunday. It was moving at nearly 20 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm system is expected to gain strength and become a hurricane by early Monday as it moves past the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state will be ready for whatever happens.

"This is a state that has dealt with hurricanes forever," he told reporters in Broward County. "We are a state that we know we have to get prepared for hurricanes."

Even so, the storm's predicted track prompted officials in Tampa to push back Monday's scheduled start of the Republican National Convention one day, hoping the move will make it safer and easier for delegates to attend.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Florida's east coast from Sebastian Inlet southward to Ocean Reef, and along Florida's west coast and the panhandle from north of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.

"The likelihood of hurricane conditions occurring in southeast Florida is decreasing," the National Hurricane Center said.

"Tropical storm conditions are occurring in the tropical storm warning area along the Florida east coast. Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread northward along the west coast of Florida and into the eastern Florida panhandle in the tropical storm warning area tonight and Monday."

By late Monday afternoon or early evening, Isaac's eye is expected to be west of Tampa.

As preparations continue in Florida, authorities in Haiti were assessing Isaac's aftermath.

The storm left at least two people dead when it struck the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti on Saturday, pounding camps where hundreds of thousands of people live in tents.

The country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that struck more than two years ago, and its challenges are compounded by the fact it is led by a relatively new government with limited resources. All that said, the top U.N. humanitarian official in the nation praised the initial response efforts.

"So far, I think we're faring reasonably well in our response," Kevin Kennedy said Saturday, referring to the efforts of the Haitian government, U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

Haitian radio reported that the worst damage was in the country's southeast where Isaac made landfall.

In the city of Jacmel, on Haiti's southern coast, the storm damaged houses and knocked out power. As many as 1,500 of the city's residents took refuge in a school serving as a shelter.

Jacmel Mayor Hugues Paul confirmed at least one death on the outskirts of his city, voicing concerns that more deaths will be reported.

A 10-year-old girl also died when a wall fell on her house in Thomazeau, near Port-au-Prince, the country's civil protection agency said.

At the Mega IV camp, where 8,000 Haitians live in makeshift shelters, fallen trees and flooding damaged hundreds of tents. Almost no one evacuated the camp before the storm, and authorities were searching the camp tent by tent for potential victims.

At another camp, Canaan, half the tents were blown away, according to an official statement on the radio.

Haiti's national electricity supplier at one point said that 30 out of the country's 32 electricity grids were down.

After hitting Haiti, Isaac skirted eastern and central Cuba. Cuban officials reported some storm surge and flooding from rain in the far eastern part of the country, and about 200 people were said to be in shelters in the town of Baracoa.

No major damage or injuries were immediately reported in Cuba.

After passing Cuba and getting back out over open water, Isaac is forecast to gain strength, the hurricane center reported.

The Florida Keys, Florida Bay and the state's west coast, from Bonita Beach south to Ocean Reef, are under a hurricane warning.

And a hurricane watch, first issued early Saturday, continued into the early morning hours for Florida's east coast from Golden Beach south to Ocean Reef.

A watch means hurricane conditions are possible, and a warning means that hurricane conditions are expected.

In Key West, the southernmost point in the United States and likely the first part of Florida to be hit by Isaac, storefront windows were boarded up, while hotels were largely vacant even though no evacuation orders had been issued.

Some in Key West, though, suggested they were ready and eager to ride out the storm.

"We came down here to have a good time, we're not going to let a hurricane get in the way," said Paul Cannella, who is visiting the Keys from Chicago. "I am a big believer in lifetime experiences, (and) I've heard about hurricane parties, so we're going to have some fun with it."

CNN's Martin Savidge, Gary Tuchman, Jim Spellman and journalist Jean Junior Osman contributed to this report.

Is he going to don his red windbreaker? I need new pictures...

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