Tropical Storm Isaac, moving through the Caribbean Sea, may become a hurricane Friday as it travels west on a path watched by commodity markets and officials preparing for the Republican National Convention.
Isaac is forecast to strengthen and cross Haiti and Cuba before arriving on the southwestern Florida coast Monday, the National Hurricane Center said. That's the opening day of the Tampa gathering at which Republicans are expected to nominate Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate.
"Significant uncertainty remains about the threat Isaac poses to Florida," the center said Thursday.
Orange-juice futures rose the most in more than seven weeks on ICE Futures U.S. in New York Wednesday because of the storm, then fell Thursday as concern eased that groves may be harmed. Natural gas gained on the New York Mercantile Exchange before declining today on a stockpile gain.
Computer forecast models, which had disagreed about Isaac's track, are starting to "show a little more convergence" and predicting a path into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, said Travis Hartman, a forecaster with MDA EarthSat Weather.
"It is better for the GOP convention in Tampa, but it is a little bit more of a risk to energy assets in the Gulf," Hartman said by telephone from Gaithersburg, Md. "We're not targeting the production area just yet, but the trend is a little bit toward that direction right now."
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said that while it's too soon to say where Isaac may make landfall, the state "must take every precaution." The Republican National Convention will decide whether to relocate, Scott said Thursday at a press briefing in Tallahassee, the state capital.
"There's not an anticipation that there will be a cancellation," Scott said. "Florida is ready. The state is more prepared than any state in the country for hurricanes."
Scott declined to disclose contingency plans. The governor said he has activated an emergency operations center and will hold briefings twice daily.
Isaac, the ninth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season that runs through November, may bring as much as 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, while 20 inches (51 centimeters) of rain and water levels 5 feet above normal are possible along the coast of Hispaniola, the center said.
Isaac is expected to strengthen during the next 48 hours and may become a hurricane Friday before it reaches Hispaniola, the center said.
"There is a one in four chance that we can get a strong storm in the production area" of the Gulf, said Matt Rogers, president of the Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Md. "In another few days, there is probably going to be a lot of talk about shut-ins and evacuations."