With the RNC perilously close, our tens of thousands of visitors may be thinking twice before flying into Tampa. Everyone is anxiously waiting to see what Tropical Storm Isaac brings to the Bay Area.
It's a real concern here. We talked with many people who are excited to be here, either on their last hurrah of summer, or for the convention. But with Isaac now looming in the distance, some folks wonder if they'll stay past Monday.
The welcome signs are up all over the airport. And when you consider Tampa Bay has been lucky the past few seasons, except for the mess Debby caused, it's no wonder people feel safe about booking vacation time here this time of the year.
"Planned the trip about a month ago," said Ken Gill, of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. He'd hoped for a smooth vacation with friends in Sarasota, until he heard Isaac had plans to swing by too.
"Well, we're only here for four nights," said Gill. "So leaving a night early is not gonna kill us, we've been away a bit," he said.
Between vacationers and the extra 50,0000 people who are coming for the RNC there could be a lot people to evacuate if Isaac heads our way.
"Tampa is really, really excited about hosting the RNC," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "We don't have any plans to cancel it. The decision on the proceedings would be the RNC's decision. My role would be to call the evacuation, and at this point, we are not looking at doing that."
"Oh yes! It's Armageddon ya know!," said Richard Huber, of Pinellas County, who had just gotten back to town. He wasn't thrilled to hear about Isaac, but said we learned a lot with a storm like Debby, which seemed to linger on forever.
"Lots of rain in Clearwater," said Huber. "We had some leakage, some roof damage, stuff like that, I don't expect the same thing with this storm."
"Right now, we're just planning, if it does hit, to have a hurricane party," said Nicolas Sabestre, who is here on vacation with friends.
"All hands on deck," said Janet Zink, who is the public information officer with Tampa International Airport. The entire airport staff is already on high alert for the convention, and depending on what happens with the storm, the airport says check with your carrier before you do anything. That way, you could save yourself a long, tedious and ultimately useless trip to TIA.
"It's not something that's gonna happen a half hour before they're supposed to get on a plane," said Zink. "We have advance warning of a hurricane, we know if it's coming, they'll know that their flights have been canceled."
Within 12 hours of the storm hitting, Zink said the airlines will evacuate all planes. Once those are gone, they have to secure the telescopic boarding bridges that we use to get on the planes.
"We pull the boarding bridges that connect the gates to the planes against the building, lower them as close to the ground as possible, and then we secure them with ties to anchors that are actually in the tarmac," Zink said.
Once winds reach 55 miles per hour, the monorails that connect the main terminal to the shuttles will no longer run. Then, airport staff have to secure anything loose on the property.
"We empty our dumpsters and secure our dumpsters, we take down any of our mobile LED signs, we take down our banners, we take down our flags," said Zink. "Just like you have to remove the yard gnome from your yard, we gotta make sure everything that we have that is unsecured, is secured."
More than 100 host committee volunteers will be on-hand all weekend to help people with hotel and transportation information—anything they can do to ensure their Tampa experience is a good one, with or without Isaac.
"If they have to bring an umbrella, bring an umbrella," Mayor Buckhorn said.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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