TAMPA — Hit with a weather disaster as Florida is playing host to the Republican Party, Gov. Rick Scott said Sunday his top priority is to get through Tropical Storm Isaac safely.
"Our job is to keep every resident and every visitor to Florida safe," Scott said at a noon news conference, where he was accompanied by Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and other law enforcement officials.
"I know there are special issues in Tampa, but we've got to make sure we do this for the entire state of Florida."
Already there have been reports of minor power outages in South Florida as the storm hits the Florida Keys, he said.
"It still looks like we'll have landfall somewhere in the Panhandle."
Official are concerned because the area never fully recovered from Tropical Storm Debby in June, he said.
"We're still saturated, so we have big concerns about flooding."
In Tampa, Scott advised residents to make the usual preparations and take the usual precautions. Stock up on food, water and medicines, he said. Don't touch fallen power lines and avoid standing water.
"We've got rain, we've got wind, we've got storm surge and we've got the risk of tornadoes," he said. "Be very, very, very cautious."
He advised visitors to avoid being out on the roads, and especially the bridges.
"If someone is staying close to the beach, stay close to the beach," Scott said. "Don't start venturing into the Tampa side because you don't know what's going to happen as far as your ability to get home."
A high priority, in the Tampa Bay area, will be educating convention visitors on how to stay safe. "Some of them have never been around a hurricane," he said. "Floridians, we deal with these things."
He pledged to make resources available if the storm hits Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana. Already more than 200 workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in Florida dealing with Debby's aftermath, he said. As many as 100 more could soon arrive.
Asked if it made sense, in hindsight, to host a national convention during the storm season, Scott said, "The convention was a big opportunity for the state to show what a great place it is to live, work and play. What they're going to find out this week is, we know how to deal with hurricanes. We're prepared. This is a state that knows how to deal with those things. On top of that, this is the best hospitality state around."
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]