Tropical Storm Isaac has formed in the Atlantic and could threaten South
Florida and the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week, forecasters
said Tuesday evening.
The forecast cone shows Isaac becoming a hurricane Thursday as it approaches the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola and that it could strike central Cuba by Sunday afternoon.
Beyond that, forecast models differ on what path the storm might take.
"We just don't know the impacts beyond Sunday," said meteorologist Barry Baxter of the National Weather Service in Miami. "At this point, we're telling everybody just to review their hurricane plans, make sure they have what they need."
If the storm does affect South Florida, the effect would likely be felt sometime between Sunday evening and Tuesday, Baxter said. He said it was too soon to tell whether the storm will affect the Republican convention, which is slated to begin Monday and run through Thursday. The storm's path could lead it anywhere from the coast of Texas to Bermuda, he said.
It's been 90 years since a major hurricane directly hit Tampa. The last to strike Florida's west coast south of the Panhandle was Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 packing 150 mph winds. The Aug. 13, 2004, storm was small, powerful and initially expected to strike the Tampa Bay area before turning and slamming Port Charlotte, about 100 miles south.
The center of Isaac is forecast to move through the central Lesser Antilles on Wednesday evening and emerge over the eastern Caribbean by Thursday morning. Forecast models show the storm potentially making a turn to the northwest on Friday and hitting central Cuba as a hurricane Sunday. After that, the models split, with some showing the system moving toward eastern Florida, others showing it moving up the west coast of the state and others showing it going out into the central Gulf of Mexico.
In its 8 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center indicated Isaac was about 435 miles east of Guadelope with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph. On Tuesday afternoon, tropical storm warnings were in effect for several areas of the Caribbean, including Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, Barbuda and Montserrat.
Staff writer Alexandra Seltzer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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