Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Some Louisiana delegates return home to brace for Isaac

WESLEY CHAPEL — Laura Carson stood beside her luggage and waited on the shuttle Monday morning as the outer bands of Tropical Storm Isaac fell softly over Saddlebrook Resort.

"I really wanted to hear Ann Romney speak," she said wistfully. "But I guess I'll have to watch it on TV."

Carson and her husband, Lane, who was an alternate delegate to the 2012 Republican National Convention, were having to return to their home 40 miles north of New Orleans to deal with any fallout from Isaac, which continued to shift west over the weekend, sparing the Tampa Bay area but threatening to make landfall in Louisiana on Wednesday as a Category 1 hurricane.

"My husband runs five nursing homes across the state," she explained. "So we may be an unusual case."

The 46 delegates and 43 alternates representing the Pelican State were torn between getting pumped up for the convention and fretting over the weather as they checked smart phones for the latest storm tracks. Several expressed concern for family back home and pets that were being boarded.

"This is like deja vu," said delegate Scott Wilfong, referring to 2008 when Hurricane Gustav, a strong Category 2, hit Louisiana during the convention in Minneapolis, prompting some delegates to fly home early on a chartered plane. Wilfong, 36, hoped to stay this week and send his wife, Jacqueline, home early to Baton Rouge. That was the plan before the storm formed, but proved smart given the circumstances.

"It's nice to have peace of mind," said Mrs. Wilfong, 35. She and her husband are the parents of two children, ages 5 and 2, who were staying out of town with relatives.

The weather even became a topic of discussion at the Louisiana delegate breakfast, with Mike Strain, the state's commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, reassuring everyone that top state officials had everything under control.

"Our governor, Bobby Jindal, and his staff are prepared," he said. Jindal, who was scheduled to speak at the convention tonight, announced plans to skip the convention for the second time in a row. He stayed home in 2008 during Gustav.

Strain, who is part of the state's top emergency operations staff, planned to sign over his voting powers as a delegate to an alternate immediately after breakfast. Then he planned to drive to Baton Rouge, a roughly 12-hour trip from Wesley Chapel. His wife, Susan, would go to their home in Covington, where they own a large veterinary hospital.

"In the meantime, you have a job to do," he told the delegates. "To get this president elected."

Louisiana wasn't the only state affected. On Saturday, delegate Leonard Bentz arrived from Mississippi, only to have to drive home the next evening. Bentz, who is chairman of the state's Public Service Commission, is in charge of the group that oversees utility companies. Staying at the festivities while his neighbors suffered with no electricity, he said, "wouldn't be good."

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