- Associated Press
Thursday, August 23, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — Tropical Storm Isaac could force a shakeup of the security plans for the GOP convention in Tampa, because about half the expected officers come from other parts of Florida, and some could be forced to stay home for the storm, authorities said Thursday.

But Gov. Rick Scott said the Florida National Guard is ready to step in if needed to fill the gap.

More than 3,500 officers from 59 law enforcement agencies from around the state are scheduled to come to Tampa to patrol the streets as the convention opens Monday. About half would come from outside Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.

About 1,700 National Guard troops already were expected to help with patrols.

“We have a process where we can call up more National Guard as quickly as we need them,” Mr. Scott said. “If we know now that some individuals are not going to show up, we have plenty of time to add more National Guard, but at this time we don’t see that we’re going to have a problem.”

On Thursday, Isaac churned toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, threatening to strengthen into a hurricane. The storm dumped heavy rain across eastern and southern Puerto Rico and whipped up waves as high as 10 feet in the Caribbean as it moved through the region.

U.S. forecasters said Isaac could become a Category 1 hurricane Friday as it approaches the island of Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. On Thursday evening, Isaac was centered 210 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

The storm was projected to head toward Florida as a hurricane by Monday, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said some forecast models predict it could go farther west into the Gulf of Mexico, so “significant uncertainty remains about the threat Isaac poses to Florida.”

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, said the storm’s current forecast indicates Tampa is unlikely to take a direct hit from a potential hurricane. When the storm passes the Bay Area, it’s likely to have an east-west motion, meaning it could sideswipe Tampa, causing rain and flooding, but not directly strike the city.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said some agencies, especially in South Florida, might decide not to send officers to Tampa if the storm threatens their areas. “As things change, they might have to prioritize,” he said.

Mr. Scott, however, said additional guardsmen — instead of heading to Tampa — could go the other way and fill in back home for the visiting officers because the latter already are trained for convention duty.
He also said Florida “is more prepared than any state in the country for hurricanes.”

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