George Winterling was a legendary meteorologist who worked for WJXT in Jacksonville, Florida for almost 50 years. He was the creator of the heat index, a measure of how hot it feels when humidity is factored in. He also accurately predicted the landfall of Hurricane Dora in 1964, saving lives and property. He died on June 21, 2023, at the age of 91. But what was George Winterling’s cause of death? How did he spend his last days? Here is what we know.
A Cardiac Arrest in 2011
According to Medicotopics, George Winterling experienced a cardiac arrest in 2011 and was taken to the hospital. The general manager of WJXT, Bob Ellis, stated that on November 21, 2011, shortly after recuperating from a cardiac arrest, he returned to WJXT to present the weather for one transmission during their morning show.
Winterling had collapsed at his home in September 2011, leaving him critically ill. When rescue responders arrived, his heart had stopped. Following emergency heart surgery, he spent weeks in the hospital and underwent extensive rehabilitation.
A Semi-Retirement in 2009
Winterling had gone into semi-retirement in 2009, after working for WJXT since 1962. He remained the station’s severe weather expert and continued to make occasional appearances on air. He also maintained a blog where he shared his insights on weather and climate.
Winterling was known for his innovation and accuracy in meteorology. He developed the concept of the heat index in 1978, which was later adopted by the National Weather Service. He also created maps showing the Earth from space and drew upcoming weather systems on them before satellite images were available for broadcast television.
He was also famous for his Thursday weather forecast from “George’s Garden”, his garden at the WJXT building. On those segments, he would offer gardening tips to go along with the forecast.
A Legacy of Excellence and Service
Winterling was born in New Jersey, but moved with his family to Jacksonville at age 10. He graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1949 and joined the United States Air Force. He learned meteorology while serving in the Air Force and was stationed in Alaska where he observed storms in the Pacific Ocean.
After leaving the service in 1954, he attended Jacksonville Junior College (now Jacksonville University), transferred to Florida State University and earned a meteorology degree in 1957. He was initially employed by the United States Weather Bureau (now known as the National Weather Service) and stayed there for five years.
In 1962, he approached WJXT management with a new idea: add a meteorologist to the news broadcast to present a weather forecast. The idea was accepted and he was hired for the job.
Less than two years later, Winterling was the only local forecaster to warn Jacksonville residents that Hurricane Dora would make landfall on the First Coast. As Dora ravaged Jacksonville, Winterling’s reputation was made – his forecast is believed to have saved property and perhaps lives as local viewers were able to prepare for the hurricane.
Winterling was a member of the American Meteorological Society since 1963 and his broadcasts carried their Seal of Approval. He received numerous awards and honors for his work, including an Emmy Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Association, and an induction into the Florida Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
He was also involved in various community service activities, such as supporting local schools, churches, charities, and environmental causes. He was married to Virginia C. Winterling for over 60 years and had three children.
George Winterling’s cause of death was not officially announced by his family or WJXT. However, it is likely that he died of natural causes related to his age and health condition. He will be remembered as a pioneer and a leader in meteorology, as well as a beloved figure in Jacksonville and beyond.