TAMPA — Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters says "early signs point to a hurricane-free" convention.
Writing at wunderground.com, Masters notes there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa in recent decades during the peak hurricane season of August, September and October. One was for Hurricane Elena in 1985. The other was for Hurricane Charley in 2004.
So he said history suggests that the odds of a mass evacuation Aug. 27-30 "are probably around 0.2 percent."
"Any tropical waves which might develop into hurricanes that could hit Tampa during the convention would have to come off the coast of Africa next week," writes Masters, who flew with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane hunters from 1986 to 1990.
Looking at the latest 16-day global forecast, Masters notes that "all of the tropical waves coming off of Africa next week are predicted to exit too far north to make the long crossing of the Atlantic and threaten the Gulf Coast."
"While something could develop in the Gulf of Mexico from the remains of an old cold front, it is rare for such storms to grow strong enough to deserve mass evacuations," he says.
Feisty Chris Christie to give keynote address
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a favorite of GOP fiscal conservatives and people who enjoy verbal fireworks, will give the keynote address at the Republican National Convention.
Christie told USA Today that he's already "grinding away" on the fourth draft of his 20-minute speech, which he said would focus more on the case for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney than on the one against President Barack Obama.
"I'll try to tell some very direct and hard truths to people in the country about the trouble that we're in and the fact that fixing those problems is not going to be easy for any of them," said Christie, a former federal prosecutor known for his take-no-prisoners style of debate.
Like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Christie was mentioned as a possible running mate for Romney. Like Rubio, he sometimes seemed warm to the idea. And like Rubio, who will introduce Romney on the last night of the RNC, Christie generally is seen as too good a speaker not to get a prime speaking role at the convention.
"He is a leader of principle and conviction," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in announcing his selection as the keynote speaker, "and I am excited to hear him."
Convention releases session times
Except for its first day, the RNC will be a nighttime event, running from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Aug. 28-30, according to a schedule released Tuesday night. On Monday, Aug. 27, sessions will run from 2 to 11 p.m., meaning that on that day traffic congestion in downtown Tampa will be more of an all-day challenge.
Town hall meeting draws big crowd
Plan ahead, build in extra time, use the detours and be patient. That's the advice an overflow crowd at the Florida Aquarium got Tuesday night at the first of three city of Tampa town hall meetings on the impact of the RNC.
And the questions? Submitted on note cards, they generally were more curious than angry, ranging from how will my petsitter get onto Harbour Island to what happens if all the protesters sue and exhaust the city's liability insurance.
"We'll be fine," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said with characteristic confidence. Two more town hall meetings are scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Tampa campus of Stetson University College of Law and Thursday at the Kate Jackson Community Center in Hyde Park.
Free RNC pedal buses called 'just plain fun'
They're not the 1,000 bikes offered at previous conventions, but the 20 pedal buses that Humana plans to roll out for the RNC drew praise during a preview Tuesday at the Tampa Convention Center.
"It's just plain fun," said Jan Larimer, co-chairman of the Committee on Arrangements for the RNC.
From Aug. 26 to Aug. 30, the stainless steel pedal buses will be made available free at four stops: Curtis Hixon Park, the Franklin Exchange Building on N Franklin Street, Ybor City on 14th Street, and the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. They'll be available from noon to 7 p.m. Manufactured in St. Louis, the pedal buses were made specifically for the conventions.
"Whether it's a pedal bus, bicycle, hand-cycle or unicycle, pedaling is healthy for the body, the mind and the environment," said Dr. Scott Latimer, a market president for Humana.
Last month, cycling advocates lamented the decision by Humana to ditch the bicycles this year in favor of the buses. Company officials acknowledged the decision was partly made because of how downtown lacks many amenities for bikes.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said this area needs to do a better job in accommodating bikes, but said he intends to enjoy the pedal buses.
"I'm going to trade that black SUV we got from the pimp and make this the new mayor-mobile," Buckhorn joked.
Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report. Richard Danielson can be reached at d[email protected]