As RNC nears, potential storm creates apprehension

TAMPA -- The "what if" question like a distant black cloud ever since Tampa was awarded the Republican National Convention during the middle of hurricane season.

And now that the convention is only a few days away and a tropical depression is brewing in the Atlantic, the prospect of a major storm impacting the event is creating palpable anxiety.

Even so, RNC Host Committee CEO Ken Jones says but he's not worried.

Jones said Tuesday that of a storm arrives during the RNC, the responsibility to get everyone out safely will fall to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and emergency management team.

Tropical Depression 9 is about 2,500 miles away in the Atlantic, but the Bay News 9 weather experts believe it could soon be upgraded to a tropical storm. Computer models show it tracking west toward the Caribbean Sea, where it could threaten the southeastern United States, including Florida.

"If it gets into the Caribbean over warm waters with light shear, this storm could easily become a hurricane," Bay News 9 meteorologist Diane Kacmarik said. "So we're going to keep an eye on this one very closely."

Ordinarily, it would be way too early to get nervous about a weather system so far away. But next week will not be ordinary for the Bay area.

The host committee says there's a detailed plan in place to deal with a storm, but officials wouldn't provide any details.

Authorities will make sure everyone is safe, first and foremost, and then it will be up to the Republican party to make sure Mitt Romney is officially nominated as the party's candidate.

"You've got to get that legal function out of the way," Jones said. "Once you figure how to do that without anybody getting hurt, you make sure people are safe you get them out of town and to an alternate location."

RNC organizers caught a snippet Monday night of what could happen if stormy weather impacts the event.

An ordinary Florida thunderstorm blew threw and damaged parts of a walkway and other rented areas outside the Tampa Bay Forum.

Crews have been working since last night to make repairs and break down and rebuild some tents.