Posted: Aug 26, 2012 7:52 AM by CNN
Updated: Aug 26, 2012 7:56 AM
Tropical Storm Isaac dumped rain and strong winds on Cuba early Sunday, picking up strength as it churned toward Florida and forced delays at the Republican National Convention.
The tropical storm was roughly 155 miles east of Havana and 135 miles east-southeast of Key West as of 8 a.m. ET Sunday. It was moving at nearly 20 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm system is expected to gain strength and become a hurricane by early Monday as it moves past the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said his state will be ready for whatever happens.
"This is a state that has dealt with hurricanes forever," he told reporters in Broward County. "We are a state that we know we have to get prepared for hurricanes."
Even so, the storm's predicted track prompted officials in Tampa to push back Monday's scheduled start of the Republican National Convention one day, hoping the move will make it safer and easier for delegates to attend.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for Florida's east coast from Sebastian Inlet southward to Ocean Reef, and along Florida's west coast and the panhandle from north of Bonita Beach to Indian Pass, including Tampa Bay.
"The likelihood of hurricane conditions occurring in southeast Florida is decreasing," the National Hurricane Center said.
"Tropical storm conditions are occurring in the tropical storm warning area along the Florida east coast. Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread northward along the west coast of Florida and into the eastern Florida panhandle in the tropical storm warning area tonight and Monday."
By late Monday afternoon or early evening, Isaac's eye is expected to be west of Tampa.
As preparations continue in Florida, authorities in Haiti were assessing Isaac's aftermath.
The storm left at least two people dead when it struck the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti on Saturday, pounding camps where hundreds of thousands of people live in tents.
The country is still recovering from a devastating earthquake that struck more than two years ago, and its challenges are compounded by the fact it is led by a relatively new government with limited resources. All that said, the top U.N. humanitarian official in the nation praised the initial response efforts.
"So far, I think we're faring reasonably well in our response," Kevin Kennedy said Saturday, referring to the efforts of the Haitian government, U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
Haitian radio reported that the worst damage was in the country's southeast where Isaac made landfall.