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Isaac threatens Fla. Keys, northern Gulf Coast

 The interior of a home is filled with floodwater brought by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Is...
 A man stands next to his bed after Tropical Storm Isaac destroyed his home and others at a camp set up for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in...
 A man carries a child as residents leave an area flooded by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Is...
 In this photo released by the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, a woman swims through flood waters in a low lying area affected by Tropical Storm Isaa...
 A boy tries to take cover from the cold behind an appliance sitting higher than the floodwaters triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, ...
 In this photo released by the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, residents leave their flooded homes in a low lying area affected by Tropical Storm Isa...
 A man carrying a bottle in his mouth slips as he wades through a flooded street, triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturda...
 A voodoo cross in honor of the Baron Samedi stands in floodwaters, triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac, at a place of worship in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,...
 A man stands on a post with a stop sign as waves pass the seawall during the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac in Baracoa, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 25, 201...
 A home that was built twice within the last two years is left in ruins during the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac near the seawall in Baracoa, Cuba, ...
 Men stand behind the seawall as waves brought by Tropical Storm Isaac splash over them in Baracoa, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Isaa...
 The southernmost point marker is covered in plastic sheeting in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac, Sat...
 Cheri Senecal walks with a bag of personal items to a shelter in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 as she prepares for Tropical Storm Isaac, Sa...
 Shira Edllan Gervasi, of Israel, puts her name on plywood protecting a storefront in Key West, Fla., in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac on Satur...
 Richie Moretti, left, and Bette Zirkelback release a kemps ridley turtle into an indoor tank in Marathon, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 . The turtles...
 Yoni Haim, left, and Jessica Yeshalek board their storefront as they prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Isaac's winds are exp...
 Oren Eshel boards a storefront on Duval Street in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac, Saturday, Aug. 25,...

Haiti Tropical Weather

The interior of a home is filled with floodwater brought by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Is...

APTOPIX Haiti Tropical Weather

A man stands next to his bed after Tropical Storm Isaac destroyed his home and others at a camp set up for people displaced by the 2010 earthquake in...

Haiti Tropical Weather

A man carries a child as residents leave an area flooded by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Is...

Haiti Tropical Weather

In this photo released by the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, a woman swims through flood waters in a low lying area affected by Tropical Storm Isaa...

APTOPIX Haiti Tropical Weather

A boy tries to take cover from the cold behind an appliance sitting higher than the floodwaters triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac in Port-au-Prince, ...

Haiti Tropical Weather

In this photo released by the U.N. mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, residents leave their flooded homes in a low lying area affected by Tropical Storm Isa...

APTOPIX Haiti Tropical Weather

A man carrying a bottle in his mouth slips as he wades through a flooded street, triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturda...

Haiti Tropical Weather

A voodoo cross in honor of the Baron Samedi stands in floodwaters, triggered by Tropical Storm Isaac, at a place of worship in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,...

APTOPIX Cuba Tropical Weather

A man stands on a post with a stop sign as waves pass the seawall during the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac in Baracoa, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 25, 201...

APTOPIX Cuba Tropical Weather

A home that was built twice within the last two years is left in ruins during the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac near the seawall in Baracoa, Cuba, ...

Cuba Tropical Weather

Men stand behind the seawall as waves brought by Tropical Storm Isaac splash over them in Baracoa, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Tropical Storm Isaa...

Tropical Weather

The southernmost point marker is covered in plastic sheeting in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac, Sat...

Tropical Weather

Cheri Senecal walks with a bag of personal items to a shelter in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 as she prepares for Tropical Storm Isaac, Sa...

Tropical Weather

Shira Edllan Gervasi, of Israel, puts her name on plywood protecting a storefront in Key West, Fla., in anticipation of Tropical Storm Isaac on Satur...

Tropical Weather

Richie Moretti, left, and Bette Zirkelback release a kemps ridley turtle into an indoor tank in Marathon, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 . The turtles...

Tropical Weather

Yoni Haim, left, and Jessica Yeshalek board their storefront as they prepare for Tropical Storm Isaac, Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012. Isaac's winds are exp...

Tropical Weather

Oren Eshel boards a storefront on Duval Street in Key West, Fla., Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012 in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac, Saturday, Aug. 25,...

Tropical Storm Isaac gained fresh muscle Sunday as it bore down on the Florida Keys, with forecasters warning it could grow into a dangerous Category 2 hurricane as it nears the northern Gulf Coast.
Isaac drew new strength early Sunday during a warm-water crossing of the Florida Straits after causing weekend havoc in Cuba, where it downed trees and power lines. Before that, Isaac was blamed for four deaths in Haiti.
On Key West, locals followed time-worn storm preparedness rituals while awaiting the storm after Isaac swamped the Caribbean and shuffled plans for the Republican National Convention. Forecasters said the storm was expected to reach the archipelago sometime Sunday at or near hurricane strength.
A steady line of cars moved north Saturday along the Overseas Highway, the only road linking the Florida Keys. Residents boarded up windows, laid down sandbags and shuttered businesses ahead of the approaching storm. Even Duval Street, Key West's storied main drag, was subdued for a weekend, though not enough to stop music from playing or drinks from being poured.
"We'll just catch every place that's open," said Ted Lamarche, a 48-year-old pizzeria owner visiting Key West to celebrate his anniversary with his wife, Deanna. They walked along on Duval Street, where a smattering of people still wandered even as many storefronts were boarded up and tourists sported ponchos and yellow slickers.
"Category None!" one man shouted in a show of optimism.
The Keys were bracing storm surge of up to four feet, strong winds and the possibility of tornadoes. The island chain's two airports closed Saturday night, and volunteers and some residents began filing into shelters.
"This is a huge inconvenience," said Dale Shelton, a 57-year-old retiree in Key West who was staying in a shelter.
Isaac has already left a trail of suffering across the Caribbean.
The storm's center made landfall Saturday near the far-eastern tip of Cuba, downing trees and power lines. In the picturesque city of Baracoa, the storm surge flooded the seaside Malecon and a block inland, destroying two homes.
At least four people were reported dead in Haiti, including a 10-year-old girl who had a wall fall on her, according to the country's Civil Protection Office. The government also reported "considerable damage" to agriculture and homes. Nearly 8,000 people were evacuated from their houses or quake shelters and more than 4,000 were taken to temporary shelters.
The Grise River in Haiti overflowed north of Port-au-Prince, sending chocolate-brown water spilling through the sprawling shantytown of Cite Soleil, where many people grabbed what possessions they could and carried them on their heads, wading through waist-deep water.
Scores of tents in quake settlements collapsed. In a roadside lot in Cite Soleil, the dozens of tents and shelters provided by international groups after the earthquake were tossed to the ground like pieces of crumpled paper, and the occupants tried to save their belongings.
After Isaac passes the Keys, it will move over the warm, open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to gain significant strength. It could ultimately make landfall on the northern Gulf Coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
"Definitely the northern Gulf Coast should be preparing for a hurricane right now," Jessica Schauer, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. However, she did note that the forecast that many days away is more uncertain than immediate predictions.
A Category 2 hurricane is capable of top sustained winds of 96 to 110 mph (154 to 177 kph).
Isaac isn't likely to hit Tampa head-on, but it could still lash the city with rain and strong winds just as the convention ramps up. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of Florida's west coast, including Tampa Bay.
Convention officials said they would convene briefly on Monday, then immediately recess until Tuesday afternoon, when the storm is expected to have passed. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and canceled his plans to attend convention events on Sunday and Monday.
As of 8 a.m. EDT, the storm was centered about 135 miles (220 km) east-southeast of Key West, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Isaac had top sustained winds of 65 mph (100 kph).
It was moving to the northwest toward the Keys at 20 mph (31 kph). Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 205 miles (335 km) from the center, meaning storm conditions were possible in many places even if Isaac does not pass directly overhead.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the Keys, including the Dry Tortugas and for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach south to Ocean Reef, among some other areas, authorities said.
Meanwhile, authorities said a new hurricane watch has been issued from the mouth of the Mississippi River _ not including the New Orleans metro area _ eastward to Indian Pass., Fla.
___
Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Tampa, Fla.; Trenton Daniel and Evens Sanon in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Peter Orsi and Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana; Fernando Gonzalez in Baracoa, Cuba; and Ezequiel Abiu Lopez in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-29 08:39 GMT+08:00