JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Republican National Convention is coming to Jacksonville about the peak time for hurricanes to visit the state. The risk for a nightmare scenario is on every planner’s mind with the expectation of the active hurricane predictions.
Compared to other parts of the state, hurricanes are less frequent, typically passing within 50 miles of Duval County on average at least once every 12 years.
While the odds of a direct strike to Jacksonville are slimmer than 1%, the chance for tremendous disruptions like what we saw with Hurricanes Irma and Matthew, which both missed a Jacksonville landfall, are much higher. That’s especially true this year which is forecast to see more storms than average.
Hurricanes have already interfered with the planning of this Republican National Convention. In 2018, Hurricane Florence forced a delay in announcing this year’s convention in Charlotte.
Charlotte was set to host the 2020 RNC before the GOP pivoted to Jacksonville, which promises to allow the sort of celebration desired by President Trump including relaxed COVID-19 social distancing measures.
In 2012, Hurricane Isaac canceled the first day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The track was initially pointed directly at Tampa but eventually passed south of Florida packing 80 mph winds before striking Louisiana twice.
Emergency officials are up against the clock planning for the Jacksonville convention in less than 75 days. Tampa knew the city would play host years in advance and prepared by using the RNC as the subject of their annual disaster drill. Officials used a mock hurricane to orchestrate details for a full-scale response.
It is a high-stakes call to host any mass gatherings in Florida a couple of weeks before the peak of hurricane season on Sept. 11. August and September mark the part of the hurricane season when 95% of major Category 3 or stronger storms develop.
Downtown Jacksonville and the hotels on the beach, which happen to be in evacuation Zone A, will be the first places people will have to flee if a storm blows through.