Isaac strengthens; Tampa still in cone after path shift
TAMPA - Tropical Storm Isaac strengthened Friday, and its projected path shifted slightly east, according to the latest five-day forecast. Forecasters expected the storm to stay below hurricane force until it reached the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, and they shifted the projected track back eastward where it remained a threat to Tampa where the Republican National Convention starts Monday. However, the Bay area would still see rain and wind from the storm’s outer bands starting late Sunday night into Monday, News Channel 8 meteorologist Leigh Spann said. The rain is expected to continue throughout Monday with clearing Tuesday, Spann said. The region can expect heavy bands of rain and localized flooding as Isaac moves to the north.Isaac was centered about 65 miles (100 kilometers) south-southwest of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, late Friday, and its maximum sustained winds had increased to 70 mph (110 kph). It was moving west at 14 mph (22 kph). Tropical force winds extended nearly 200 miles (321 kilometers) from the storm's center. Forecaster Eric Blake of the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it is "too early to know" the storm's exact course, though projections indicated the storm could make U.S. landfall near the Alabama-Mississippi border. Tropical storm winds extended up to 200 miles from the center, forecasters said. South Florida should begin feeling the effects of the storm Sunday, including heavy rain and gusty winds. It should near the Florida Keys on Sunday as a tropical storm, forecasters said. Organizers of next week's Republican National Convention were working closely with state and federal authorities on monitoring storm as they prepared for the arrival of 70,000 delegates, journalists and protesters. "We continue to move forward with our planning and look forward to a successful convention," convention CEO William Harris said in a statement. Gov. Rick Scott said RNC officials had consulted with state, local and federal authorities and there were no plans to cancel the convention. In Haiti, the government and international aid groups announced plans to evacuate several thousand people from one of the settlement camps that sprang up in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Isaac was expected to dump eight to 12 inches of rain on the island of Hispaniola that is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. "That kind of rain is going to cause some life-threatening flash floods and mudslides," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the hurricane center. The storm dumped heavy rain Thursday across eastern and southern Puerto Rico and whipped up waves as high as 10 feet in the Caribbean as it churned across the region. In flood-prone Haiti, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe urged people to avoid crossing rivers and to stay calm, saying "panic creates more problems." Lamothe and other Haitian officials said the government had set aside about $50,000 in emergency funds and had buses and 32 boats on standby for evacuations. But among many Haitians, the notion of disaster preparedness in a country where most people get by on about $2 a day was met with a shrug. "We don't have houses that can bear a hurricane," said Jeanette Lauredan, who lives in a tent camp in the crowded Delmas district of Port-au-Prince. About 400,000 people remain in settlement camps comprised of shacks and tarps in the wake of Haiti's devastating 2010 earthquake. So far, Isaac had caused no reported injuries or deaths, but police in Puerto Rico said a 75-year-old woman died near the capital of San Juan on Wednesday when she fell off a balcony while filling a drum with water in preparation for the storm. In the Dominican Republic, authorities began to evacuate people from low-lying areas but encountered resistance. "Nobody wants to leave their homes for fear they'll get robbed," said Francisco Mateo, community leader of the impoverished La Cienaga neighborhood in Santo Domingo, the capital. The Dominican government planned to close all of the country's nine airports by dawn Friday, said Alejandro Herrera, civil aviation director. Schools closed by Thursday afternoon. Commercial airlines, including American Airlines, canceled flights to and from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico. The storm's approach prompted military authorities at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to cancel pretrial hearings for five prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They also evacuated about 200 people, including legal teams and relatives of Sept. 11 victims.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.