Tropical Storm Isaac started pelting the Florida Keys with rain and strong winds on Sunday, and it could strengthen into a dangerous hurricane by the time it starts hitting the northern Gulf Coast in the coming days.
Forecasters warn it could become a Category 2 hurricane, capable of top sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph (154 to 177 kph).
Republican National Convention officials said they would convene briefly on Monday, then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, when the storm is expected to have passed. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and canceled his plans to attend convention events on Sunday and Monday.
Isaac isn't likely to hit Tampa head-on, but it could still lash the city with rain and strong winds just as the convention ramps up. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Florida's west coast, including Tampa Bay. Scott asked residents to "hunker down" during the storm and be extremely cautious.
As of Saturday, members of the California delegation remain undeterred despite storm warnings.
“We’ve been through them before and we’ll get through this one,” said Nancy Gilligan, a volunteer greeter at the Tampa airport. “Won’t be a problem at all,” she said of Isaac.
Isaac drew new strength early Sunday during a warm-water crossing of the Florida Straits after causing weekend havoc in Cuba, where it downed trees and power lines. Before that, Isaac was blamed for four deaths in Haiti.