Will Tropical Storm Isaac hit Florida? (+video)
Though the media has focused on possible effects of the storm on the Republican National Convention planned to take place in Tampa beginning on Monday, others worry about flooding and damage elsewhere.
Tropical Storm Isaac unleashed heavy rain and winds off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it moved across the Caribbean on Thursday and could strengthen into a hurricane before tearing across the Dominican Republic and Haiti.Skip to next paragraph
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Authorities have not ruled out the possibility of postponing or relocating the Republican convention if the storm takes direct aim at Tampa. But Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the convention was not his biggest concern, at least for now.
"People are spending a lot of time talking about that," Fugate said of the convention. "I wish they'd be talking about making sure people in the (Florida) Keys are getting ready and that people in southwest Florida are getting ready," he told CNN.
The storm could also affect U.S. energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico, with analysts at Weather Insight, a Thomson Reuters company, giving it a 50 percent probability of moving into the heart of the oil and gas production region.
After passing through the Caribbean, Isaac is forecast to -strengthen again near Florida on Monday to a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, but with an unclear path. Some computer models show the storm's track swinging farther west into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Significant uncertainty remains about the threat Isaac poses to Florida and other portions of the Gulf Coast," the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
It said Isaac was centered about 190 miles (305 km) south-southwest of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Thursday evening and was moving westward at 16 miles per hour (26 kph).
The storm had top sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph). The Miami-based hurricane center said Isaac could become a hurricane on Friday as it nears Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Isaac was expected to dump between 8 and 12 inches (20 to 30.5 cm) of rain over parts of Hispaniola, with total accumulations up to 20 inches (51 cm) in some areas, the NHC said, posing a significant threat to Haiti, which is highly prone to flooding and mudslides because of its near-total deforestation.