50 years ago: Post-Dora perspective

George Winterling won fans instantly


JACKSONVILLE, Fla – I have known of the article for years and George never mentioned to me it existed.  I did, however, find it when cleaning the weather office about 15 years ago.  I enjoyed it immensely and I hope you will too...

First, a little background, George was hired here at Channel 4 (WMBR) just two years earlier.  A week before Dora there was Chloe, a powerful hurricane that ripped South Florida and this was written about a week after Dora came across North Florida. 

Additionally, I would also like to thank Greg Hamilton and The Gainesville Sun for allowing us to repost this.  JG.

Great Day in the Morning!

Hurricane Watching By SAM McGARVEY- Sun Staff Writer

It is easy enough to misplace most any old thing, but for Pete's sake how can anyone lose a big hurricane!

It sounds impossible, what with radar, special aircraft which tracks the storms, and expensive recording instruments but the Miami Weather Bureau has pulled the trick - not once but twice.

The "official" boys down there lost Cleo and when that storm smacked Miami unexpectedly, the howls of criticism nearly matched hurricane intensity.

Hero at that time was George Winterling, Jacksonville meteorologist, who in the face of "official" Miami word, correctly charted the path of Cleo. At least, he was a hero to thousands of amateur hurricane watchers who in their living rooms plot the storms on broadcast reports.

The same thing happened Wednesday night when mighty Dora was approaching the NE coast and bug-eyed TV viewers were anxiously waiting to hear where Dora's evil eye would pass over the mainland.

Dutifully, George reported the "official'' verdict,  that the storm was off St. Augustine and heading in a NE direction toward Jacksonville Beach. But then, like David and Goliath, he yanked back on his slingshot and in effect s a i d, "They've got it wrong. The lowest barometric reading is at St. Augustine, and still dropping, and the storm must be heading in that direction.''

Moments later, a rival TV channel urged its viewers to beware of "rumors" and issued the "official" forecast that Dora was headed for Jax Beach.

Unfortunately, the rest of the debate was lost, for George's station went off the air, and one of his partisans was quick to hint that sabotage was involved. Even so, it was with great satisfaction that, along with thousands of others, we at home heard George's forecast sustained, even though it brought Dora closer to us. By flickering candlelight and an inexpensive barometer, we had followed the approach of the storm. From a point above 30, it dropped steadily 29.80 to 29.60 and then sank to 29.50 and stopped for the time. It was then, apparently, that Dora changed course, after a two-hour stall, for our barometer recorded successively 29.40 (a low for our place during 15 years), 29.30, 29.20 and then hit bottom at 29.05. Soon after that the eye of the storm went by our section, and from then on the barometer began a climb that Dora was rapidly moving away.

In the meantime, with the power off, we were quietly worrying about a refrigerator and deep freeze, both loaded, which were both approaching the danger point. We had acted earlier on a suggestion that pails or pans of water in the freezers would make ice, which in turn would transform the freezers in t o old-fashioned ice boxes. The trick helped, no doubt, but the real work was done by power company workmen, who, while we were snug as a bug, got out in the storm and restored service.

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