Jim Cantore talks memes, 'very dangerous' Florence outlook

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The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore is a legendary figure in hurricane reporting and he arrived in Wilmington Monday.

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — As Southeastern N.C. settled into Hurricane Florence Watch over the weekend, it also kept an eye out for another arrival — Jim Cantore.

The seasoned meteorologist for The Weather Channel has long been the face of hurricane coverage for the 24-hour weather network. Wherever they go, he goes.

In Southeastern N.C., ask anyone who has been a resident through a major storm and they’ll tell you some variation of the same motto — “If Jim Cantore comes to town, that’s when I know to leave.”

As Florence began to strengthen late last week and the Cape Fear region landed in her path, people began posting memes asking when and if Cantore would pop up in the region.

On Monday, the first sighting of Cantore landing at Wilmington International Airport was shared on Facebook.

By that evening, it seemed as though the entire region was on alert.

>>READ MORE: Click here for complete coverage of Hurricane Florence.

People joke about Cantore’s presence, but for some, it’s a fact of life. Whenever someone like Cantore brings his reputable weather team to the region, people know it is a sign to start paying attention if they haven’t already.

“It follows me around,” Cantore said Tuesday. “People know I try to get to the worst of the weather. But hey, if it helps get people out of harm’s way, then mission accomplished.”

Cantore went live with The Weather Channel Tuesday morning from Wrightsville Beach. Since then, there has been a slight northern shift in Florence’s path, but Cantore said he has no plans of following it up the coast — at least for now.

With so many unknowns in the path ahead, he sees the Cape Fear region as the best place to report on her approach.

“I have no issues in staying right here,” he said. “I think there is enough uncertainties with where we are that my goal posts are just south of Morehead City and north of Myrtle Beach.”

Looking at the models late Tuesday, Cantore said Florence is still laced with uncertainty. The litany of weather models vary in where they take the storm, with some going west-southwest and others going northwest.

As for what this region could see from the storm, Cantore said it is still hard to pin down exactly what to expect.

“That’s the million dollar question and, right now, we just don’t have an answer to it,” he said.

He did confirm models were picking up on some wind shear — when wind blows in the opposite direction and disrupts a system — entering the equation around the time of expected landfall late Thursday into Friday.

“Tropical systems don’t like to be bothered with wind shear,” he said. “They don’t like anything to blow the tops off of them.”

Regardless of what happens as Florence roars toward the coast, Cantore said he is confident she is going to be one for the books.

“The atmosphere overall, before the potential landfall, certainly looks like we are going to have a very dangerous hurricane on our hands,” he said. “It is going to have a big wind field, and it’s going to be slow, so it’s going to beat away at the beach with waves. When you slow a system down that has tropical water with it, it is just going to dump rain.”

He said state rainfall records will definitely be threatened by Florence.

As always, Cantore said predicting monster storms like these is never an exact science. But as he stands out on Wrightsville Beach this week to tell the world about the incoming hurricane, he’s not holding back because he knows lives depend on him.

“I have to present almost kind of the worst-case scenario because if I don’t do that and it winds up being worse, you could die,” he said. “I’d rather be wrong on the lighter end.”

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.