Tropical Storm Isaac Takes Aim at Puerto Rico, Threatens Haiti
TODAY’s Al Roker tracks Tropical Storms Isaac’s current path as it takes aim at Puerto Rico and the eastern Caribbean.
By Weather.com and wire reports
Updated at 8:12 a.m. ET: Tropical Storm Isaac brought rain and gusty winds to Puerto Rico and the eastern Caribbean Islands and was expected to gradually strengthen as it moved west through the northeastern Caribbean on Thursday.
Forecasters said it was too soon to gauge Isaac’s potential impact on Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where the Republican National Convention is to run from Monday through Thursday.
Related: Track Tropical Storm Isaac
Some computer models showed Isaac shifting slightly to the west and eventually moving parallel to Florida’s western coastline. Others forecast the storm to make landfall in South Florida and then move inland.
Forecasters predict Isaac will become a hurricane by Friday morning, but perhaps the more ominous threat in the short term is the potential for extremely heavy rainfall over the islands near Isaac’s path, weather.com reported.
More than a foot of rainfall, and potentially as much as 20 inches in some places, was possible on the island of Hispaniola, home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides could result from that amount of rain.
Residents and visitors of the northern Caribbean, Yucatan Peninsula, southeastern United States and the central/eastern Gulf Coast should watch the progress of Isaac closely over the next week or more, weather.com reported.
Numerous watches and warnings have been issued, including a hurricane warning for Haiti and the south coast of the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico was under a tropical storm warning, and it was expected to see its greatest impacts from Isaac on Thursday.
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On Thursday, Isaac is expected to pass just south of Puerto Rico. As the storm approached, Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno declared a state of emergency, canceled classes, closed government agencies and activated the National Guard.
The government also froze prices on basic necessities such as food, batteries and other supplies and prepared emergency shelters at schools and other facilities.
Despite Tropical Storm Isaac’s threatening winds and rains ahead of the GOP convention in Florida, Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan are taking aim at President Obama and his handling of the economy. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.
Isaac was projected to weaken to a tropical storm over Haiti and then pass over Cuba before strengthening into a hurricane in the Florida Straits between Cuba and Florida. Its exact path after that remained uncertain.
Heavy rainfall, flooding and mudslides will be threats in all of the northern Caribbean islands regardless of how strong the system becomes, weather.com reported.
Isaac may also threaten U.S. energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico, weather experts said. It was centered about 265 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, early on Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Isaac had top sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.
From weather.com: Isaac’s looming US threat
At the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in southeast Cuba on Wednesday, authorities said Isaac forced the postponement of pretrial hearings that were to begin on Thursday for five prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 attacks.
The U.S. military was preparing flights to evacuate the base of lawyers, paralegals, interpreters, journalists, rights monitors and family members of 9/11 victims who had traveled there for the hearings.
From weather.com: Track Isaac’s path
Lixion Avila, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center, suggested it would be foolish for anyone to think Tampa — where Republicans will nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate — was out of harm’s way.
AHurricane expert Jeff Masters of private forecaster Weather Underground
said Tampa had a 9 percent chance of getting hit with tropical storm-force winds for a 24-hour period ending on the morning the Republican convention kicks off. But that could make the storm a non-event in terms of the convention itself.
“I put the odds of an evacuation occurring during the convention in the current situation at 3 percent,” Masters said in his blog on the weatherunderground.com website.
Tropical Storm Isaac churns over Caribbean, could threaten GOP convention
Orange juice prices rise
Florida has not been hit by a major hurricane since 2005 and forecasts showed Isaac was not expected to strengthen beyond a weak Category 1, with top sustained wind speeds of about 80 mph.
The threat to Florida triggered a nearly 6 percent jump in orange juice prices on Wednesday as they surged to a six-week high in trading in New York.
Florida produces more than 75 percent of the U.S. orange crop and accounts for about 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply.
Lurking behind Isaac, the hurricane center said another tropical depression formed over the eastern tropical Atlantic on Wednesday.
Located about 1,045 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, it was packing winds of 35 mph and was expected to become a tropical storm on Thursday. Forecasts predicted it will eventually veer toward the open Atlantic and away from the Caribbean.
Reuters and weather.com contributed to this report
Momma’s Source: MSN News