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Scott prepares for Isaac to become a hurricane and hit Panhandle

PALM HARBOR -- Gov. Rick Scott said he is returning to Tallahassee Monday as he expects Isaac to increase wind speeds and become a slow-moving hurricane that will make landfall somewhere between Pensacola and Mobile, Ala., Tuesday night, and dump an estimated 16 inches on the already-soaked Panhandle.

“Our risk right now is the Panhandle,’’ he told Florida RNC delegates at the group’s breakfast meeting on Monday at Innisbrook Resort and Spa in Palm Harbor. “It is drenched already.” 

Scott told the delegates to “stay stay where you are” today as he expects tropical storm force winds, tornadoes and rain in Tampa. He warned, however, that while the expectation is that the storm will continue to move westward it is “wobbling a lot.”

Scott also announced that the RNC will partner with the American Red Cross to raise money for families and individuals affected by the storm. "We can't stop a hurricane, but we can react to it,'' he said.

The governor, who has been getting frequent briefings from emergency management officials while operating out of the an emergency operations center at the Republican National Convention, said Florida hasn't "had a lot of damage" from Isaac's soaking. An estimated 100,000 homes and businesses were without power in South Florida, he said, and as wind speeds pick up he expects a three to four inch storm surge in Tampa late Monday and wind speeds of up to 50 mph.

That means the delegates should stay where they are, and not attempt to "venture in to Tampa today. We don't know if the bridges will be closed."

Most activities have been cancelled at the convention center and temporary tents that have been erected to shield people from wind and sun, can only sustain winds of 25 mph, Scott said.

For the 95 Florida delegates and alternates, located at 26 miles away from Tampa, the governor joked that they now are safe from any coastal flooding. "The RNC was so nice to us, we don't have to worry about the beach,'' he said.

On a day originally expected to be jam-packed with speakers, the Florida delegates were greeted with “Fresh From Florida” steak and eggs breakfast, hosted by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.