WAYNE HART 1Meteorologist Wayne Hart explains severe spring weather patterns to audience April 10 at the Central City Convention Center.CENTRAL CITY, Ky. (4/11/14) — Many evenings at 6 p.m. Muhlenberg County residents spend some time with Wayne Hart, chief meteorologist for WEHT and WTVW.

However, on Thursday night, April 10 at 6 p.m., Hart brought his vast weather knowledge live to the Central City Convention Center for a Severe Weather presentation.

Hart was invited by Central City Mayor Barry Shaver to alert Muhlenberg County residents to the fact that warmer spring and summer weather mean severe weather will hit sooner or later.

"Many people think I just come in 15 minutes before the newscast and read the weather forecast off a teleprompter," Wayne Hart said to a group of citizens in Central City. "But I have spent much of my life learning all I can to bring this area reliable weather."

Hart earned a degree from Cornell University before working as a meteorologist at WLKY in Louisville and a brief stay at CNN before joining 25-WEHT in 1993.

With the tri-state's decade plus history of tornadic activity, Hart gave the audience some warnings they have heard before, but bear repeating.

"Much of what I'll tell you is just common sense, like turn around, don't drown," Hart said.

"The number one vehicle that gets washed away are big 4 wheel drive trucks, because people think they can drive through water with a bigger vehicle. But you have no idea if there is even pavement under you if you cannot see the road due to high water."

Hart also told the audience to never take a shower or talk on your home's land line phone during a storm.

"Never stand under a tree or touch your home's electrical cords during a storm," Hart said. "Don't let your children play on television video games that involve cords connected to any type of electrical system. These are all connected to outside wires, and they can and do allow lightning to come into your home, and even kill you if you are not careful. Indoors and out, lightning is one of our biggest concerns. Because we hope we won't see any tornadoes this year, but you can bet we'll see some lighting."

Hart noted that nationwide, lightning kills almost 90 people each year in the U.S. alone.  

WAYNE HART fire chiefCentral City Fire Chief Rick King explains the county's new siren system during Wayne Hart's Severe Weather presentation April 10.

Regarding weather sirens, Hart warned that sirens should never be your only source of weather information.

"These sirens are meant specially to alert people who are outdoors of potentially bad weather," Hart noted. "I hear too often, after a storm, someone will say they didn't hear the siren. If you're indoors, it's not designed for you to hear it. But when bad weather does hit, the first thing to do is get inside, turn on the television or radio and see what is happening weather wise. Every home needs a weather radio, with fresh batteries. Your weather radio is your best line of defense. The best thing is to have are multiple ways to get weather information. Emails, smart phones, the more sources of information the better, because one source can always go out in severe weather."

Hart traced reviewed some of the more intense tornadoes over the past decade, including the January 3, 2000 tornado.

"We were all concerned about the Y2K computer virus scare, but no one was expecting something like this," Hart said.

The most recent severe tornado was the February 29, 2012 Leap Day tornado that left several people dead in Harrisburg, Illinois.

"This was a very unusual tornado," Hart noted. "We had several outbreaks in the morning hours, which is very unusual. We had an F2 tornado at 8:45 in the morning, with 120 mph winds. Then on March 2, 2012, we had the Henryville, Indiana tornado, which killed several people. And then West Liberty, Ky. was hit. That a bad three days we had just two years ago."

Hart said that the tri-state is also prone to have a lot of tornadoes at night.

"If you look at statistics we are least likely to have a tornado between sunrise and noon," Hart said.  .

One nighttime tornado took a direct hit on Muhlenberg County, Hart said, on February 5, 2008, leaving several dead, and enormous damage and total destruction of homes throughout the county. He reminded many of the event with pictures of the event that leveled homes in Central City's Gaslight Park, and also leveled D and P Auto Sales, along with many homes and structures throughout the county.  

"Once again this was a February tornado, this time an F3 with 160 mph winds," Hart said. "There were three fatalities in one mobile home in Muhlenberg County. We were on the edge of a major outbreak that night. There were over 50 fatalities nationwide, mostly in the Tennessee Valley. For some reason we often see some of our biggest tornadoes in the late winter around here."

Mayor Shaver raised the question of what seems like an increase in tornadoes over the past decade.

WAYNE HART groupWayne Hart fields questions from the audience after his Severe Weather presentation, April 10 at Central City Convention Center.

Hart said that there has seemed to be an increase since 2000 in the number of tornadoes in the tri-state area.

"We have had tornadoes in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2012," Hart said. "The good news seems to be that we are possibly heading into a period of fewer tornadoes, we hope. The past two years things have seemed to quiet down a bit. I don't really get into the argument or study possible climate change, or long range predictions. I am a short range specialist. But it does seem that these storms go more in climate cycles."

But whatever the cycles, the best time for bad weather is now, during the months of April, May and June, Hart noted.

Paul McRee
SurfKY News

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