Where have all the Lexington forecasters gone?

ssloan@herald-leader.comFebruary 16, 2011 

For every beloved local forecaster fixture, such as Brad James or the late Brian Collins, there are many who come and go. Lexington is a smaller market, so the stations here are often a step to bigger and better things in the television news world. Today, become reacquainted with many of the past forecasters who called Lexington home.

Chris Bailey | Mike Brooks | Tim Drawbridge | Christie Dutton | Frank Faulconer | Bryan Hale | Kevin Hall | Duane Harding | Alan Harkins| Brad James | Jon James | Marina Jurica | Diane Kacmarik | Kimberly King | Keisha Kirkland | Kristie Kubovic | Kevin Lighty | Scott Padgett | Cindy Preszler | Randy Rauch | Lauren Raymer | | Stuart Shepard | Suzanne Sill | Allen Strum | Bernadette Woods

Duane Harding

In Lexington: 1980-1985 at WLEX and WKYT. Weekends at WLEX, weekdays at WKYT.

After Lexington: Harding, affectionately known as "Dr. Duane," was a meteorology and physics professor at Eastern Kentucky University before agreeing to leave teaching to pursue television news full-time at WKYT. Harding left Lexington for a Norfolk, Va., station in 1986 and then jumped to another station there and worked for six more years. He said he left television news a few years after being in a car crash with a drunk driver. He suffered from migraines daily for years and was eventually diagnosed with severe narcolepsy, a diagnosis that has led to him no longer having the headaches. He is a master gardener and often speaks at universities.

Favorite memory: "The people I worked with were just absolutely wonderful, all of them," he recalled.


Keisha Kirkland

In Lexington: 2005 at WKYT.

After Lexington: Kirkland worked at Cincinnati's WLWT in 2006 and then in 2008 moved to WYFF in Greenville, S.C.

Favorite memory: Kirkland said it had to be "watching my beautiful daughter discover grass and playing in the yard. She truly loved the Bluegrass State."


Kevin Hall

In Lexington: 1997-2003 at WLEX and WTVQ at times including mornings.

After Lexington: At the time of his departure from WTVQ, Hall was co-owner of a barber shop and hair salon. He later left for his hometown of Atlantic City, N.J., and volunteered for a city council campaign. He became the campaign's manager and now runs a small communications company called citnaltA Communications (Atlantic spelled backward). He also holds a major role in the city government, serving as an aide to the mayor, business administrator and solicitor.

Favorite memory: "My fondest memory of Lexington is of the spirit I found in the people there…" Hall recalled. "One of the first things I was told was I could have a rough time on TV in Lexington because I am African-American. Nothing could have been further from the truth."


Alan Harkins

In Lexington: 1991-1997 at WTVQ. Weekends and mornings.

After Lexington: Unlike many of his brethren, Harkins, whose real name is Elvin, stayed in Lexington. He has since worked for the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association and Hyatt Regency and is now sales and catering manager at Tomato Express, Inc., which owns and operates the Smashing Tomato and Bella Notte restaurants.

Favorite memory: The station’s morning animal features were always fun, Harkins recalled. "I held a wallaby on the weather segment, and I used its tail as a pointer," he said. "I even kissed a pig when my forecast wasn't correct."


Diane Kacmarik

In Lexington: 1992 to 1994 at WLEX. Chief meteorologist.

After Lexington: In 1994, she moved to Kansas City's WDAF. She left there in 2000 for WTSP in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla. Since 2004, she has been a meteorologist for Bay News 9, a 24-hour local news channel in St. Petersburg.

Favorite memory: Opening day at Keeneland.


Suzanne Sill

In Lexington: 1988 to 1992 at WTVQ. Mornings and weekends.

After Lexington: Sill left WTVQ for KNOE in Monroe, La. In 1994, she went to work for WTVR in Richmond, Va., until 1999, when she retired from television.

Favorite memory: "Just all the fun I had with the many friends and coworkers I met there, and the uniqueness and beauty of Keeneland on race days."


Frank Faulconer

In Lexington: 1957 to 1969. "Fearless" Frank Faulconer was WKYT's first weatherman. He then worked at WTVQ until 1986 and provided weather on radio station WKQQ until 2001, when he retired.

After Lexington: Faulconer, 87, lives in Lexington and is enjoying retirement.

Favorite memory: Faulconer said his fondest times were in the early days at WKYT, when there was a pane of glass over the map and you drew the weather symbols with a grease pencil. He fondly recalls leading a weather program for youths on KET at the time.


Randy Rauch

In Lexington: 1989 to 1992 at WKYT. Noon and weekends.

After Lexington: Rauch was chief meteorologist at KOLD in Tucson, Ariz., from 1992 to 1994. He then went on to stations in Las Vegas (1994 to 1997), Phoenix (1997 to 1999), Orlando (1999 to 2001) and St. Petersburg, Fla. (2002 to 2008). Today, he owns American Broadcast Talent, an Orlando-based company that trains future meteorologists, reporters and anchors entering the industry.

Favorite memory: The noon show once had an owl in the studio that "went crazy flying around," Rauch said. "I never saw Bill Bryant laugh so hard on the air. We both had tears in our eyes."


Cindy Preszler

In Lexington: 1990 to 1996 at WKYT. Chief meteorologist and the first meteorologist for WDKY's 10 p.m. news, which is produced by WKYT

After Lexington: She was the morning meteorologist at Chicago's WMAQ and now is the chief meteorologist at KSDK in St. Louis, where she has worked for more than 12 years.

Favorite memory: Preszler recalled an evening newscast at the Kentucky Oaks. "It was a rainy day, and Barbara Bailey needed to blow-dry her hair before she went on the air," she said. "The only electrical outlet available was in the satellite truck. When she plugged it in, the entire truck's power died. Everyone had a good laugh."


Brad James

In Lexington: One of local television's most recognizable faces, James held roles including chief meteorologist at WKYT from 1973 to 1990, and at WTVQ from 1990 until his retirement in 2008.

After Lexington: James spends time working with the Bluegrass Amateur Radio Society and has had a cabin built in rural Tennessee. "I'm trying to become Thoreau," he said.

Favorite memory: James' affinity for pranks was well known. Among them were annual April Fool's Day jokes, including one in which he told viewers of his trip to the Thousand Islands, home of the famous salad dressing.


Stuart Shepard

In Lexington: 1985 to 1999 at WLEX. Shepard started as a sports photographer and became weekend weather anchor in 1987, working for his mentor, the late Brian Collins. Shepard moved to mornings in 1993 and was chief meteorologist from 1994 to 1999. From 1987 to 1999, he hosted the station's Thursday Child series, which featured kids in the state's Special Needs Adoption Program.

After Lexington: Shepard left Lexington, where he also had been a minister with Sulphur Well Christian Church in Jessamine County, to join Christian group Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo. He began as a reporter for a radio news program called Family News in Focus and now hosts the show, which is carried on more than 740 Christian radio stations nationwide.

Favorite memory: Shepard looks most fondly on his Thursday's Child series. "Occasionally, years later, I'd be at a restaurant and a young person would come up and say, 'Remember me?' Then they'd introduce me to their adoptive parents," Shepard said. "That's a precious and humbling experience. I often wonder how they're all doing. I still pray for them."


Bryan Hale

In Lexington: 1994 to 1998 at WLEX. Mornings.

After Lexington: Hale moved to Kansas City, Mo., to be the morning meteorologist at an NBC affiliate. In 2000, he took the position of chief meteorologist at KGBT, the CBS station near Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen, Texas, known by locals as the Rio Grande Valley.

Favorite memory: "I was challenged to eat an 18-piece bucket of KFC live on the air while doing the weather for Kentucky Sunrise," Hale said. With 12 minutes left to go, "I polished off the bucket of chicken, having used several drumsticks as pointers at the weather wall."


Tim Drawbridge

In Lexington: 1994 to 1997 at WLEX. Weekends.

After Lexington: Drawbridge left for WSYM in Lansing, Mich., and then joined WZVN in Fort Myers, Fla., in 2002. A year later, he moved to Albany, N.Y., where he has worked at a few stations, including his current home, WNYT, since 2007.

Favorite memory: Drawbridge fondly remembers the University of Kentucky's 1996 NCAA basketball championship, as well as judging the "hot" contest at the Blues, Brews and Barbecue fund-raisers at the time.


Kimberly King

In Lexington: 1994 to 1998 at WTVQ. Weekend weather and weekday reporter.

After Lexington: King joined WXIN in Indianapolis to do weekend weather and weekday reporting and is now lead general assignment and investigative reporter for the station's 10 p.m. news.

Favorite memory: King said it had to be working with chief meteorologist Brad James.

"One time for Halloween, he had me put on an ape head, a la Planet of the Apes, and do the weathercast while he did the voice-over on the air," King said. "After the five-day graphic, they came back to me on camera, and Brad had me pull the monkey head off and — surprise — it was me. It might sound silly, but we had fun!"

King was also with colleague John Brandon along Woodland Avenue on the night that the University of Kentucky men's basketball team won the 1996 NCAA championship. Raucous fans began jumping on the station's 1992 Chevrolet Blazer. The reporters abandoned the vehicle shortly before it was tipped over. A fuel spill occurred and a fire erupted shortly afterward. The vehicle was a total loss. "That all made CNN," King said.


Tom Sater

In Lexington: 1996 to 1998 at WKYT. Chief meteorologist (also for WDKY's 10 p.m. news, which WKYT produces). Sater also worked briefly for WLEX in the mornings in 1993.

After Lexington: Sater left with his wife, WKYT anchor Holly Morris, for jobs at WTTG in Washington, D.C. The station let him go in 2006, but a union that represents meteorologists won a severance package for him that the station had sought to deny. He and Morris divorced, and he is now married to Gurvir Dhindsa, an anchor at WTTG. He said he became "Mr. Mom" after the couple had twin daughters who were born premature. He is now doing weather forecasts on Washington's WUSA on a freelance basis.

Favorite memory: Sater grew fond of horses during his time in the Bluegrass. He and his wife live about 90 minutes west of the nation's capital and have three quarter horses.


Chris Bailey

In Lexington: 1998 to 2008 at WKYT. Mornings.

After Lexington: Bailey left for WSAZ, which broadcasts in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va.

Favorite memory: His favorite non-work memory, which kind of connects to work, is the birth of his daughter, Wynter, in May 2003. Why does it connect? Well, she was born during a tornado outbreak.


Mike Brooks

In Lexington: 1998 to 2000 at WLEX. Meteorologist and co-anchor on various newscasts.

After Lexington: Brooks moved to an Orlando, Fla., station, which he anchored until 2003. He then moved to South Texas and became the evening anchor at KGBT until 2007. Then he moved to Atlanta's WGCL. Since last year, he has been living in Naples, Fla., and working as a real estate agent.

Favorite memory: Brooks recalled working with WLEX's Lee Cruse, who often would claim that Brooks wore a toupee. "I didn't wear one, but Lee loved to make fun of my hair," Brooks said. "On more than one occasion, I'd be out shopping somewhere, and a viewer would come up behind me and tug on my head just to make sure the hair was real."

Another memory was an on-air flub of a report about Paducah school shooter Michael Carneal. "The script read something like 'The judge has sealed Michael's records in the case,' but instead of records, I said rectum. ... Everyone inside the station was rolling on the floor, so we went to commercial."


Scott Padgett

In Lexington: 2000 to 2002 at WLEX. Mornings.

After Lexington: Padgett moved to Baltimore and joined News Central, a national operation by Sinclair Broadcast Group that created content for its stations nationally. In 2006, he joined KOKH in Oklahoma City as chief meteorologist. Two years later, he moved to WPLG in Miami, where he is morning meteorologist.

Favorite memory: Padgett's highlights include interviewing Willard Scott at Churchill Downs and sharing in the excitement of his mother winning the first horse race she ever bet on at an opening day at Keeneland.


Allen Strum

In Lexington: 1998 to 2001 at WTVQ. Mornings.

After Lexington: Strum joined WEAR in Pensacola, Fla., where he is chief meteorologist.

Favorite memory: "The best days were hitting a trifecta or exacta while sipping a bloody Mary on a Sunday afternoon at Keeneland," Strum said.


Christie Dutton

In Lexington: 2001 to 2007 at WTVQ. Mornings.

After Lexington: Dutton left for WXIX in Cincinnati, then took a job in 2009 at WAVE in Louisville, where she is the morning meteorologist.

Favorite memory: Dutton recalled a time when she and morning anchor Kristi Runyon couldn't stop laughing after anchor Tom Kenny danced like M.C. Hammer in the rapper's U Can't Touch This music video as the newscast went to commercial.


Marina Jurica

In Lexington: 2002 to 2006 at WKYT. Mornings.

After Lexington: Jurica left for Cincinnati and worked at WLWT and WCPO for two years. In 2007, she joined WSAZ, which broadcasts in Huntington and Charleston, W.Va.

Favorite memory: "I would have to say meeting my husband there and performing with the musical theater groups in town, specifically Paragon Music Theater and the University of Kentucky," said Jurica, who continues to take voice lessons with UK's Everett McCorvey.


Jon James

In Lexington: 2003 to 2009 at WTVQ. Chief meteorologist.

After Lexington: James' contract was not renewed at the end of 2009. He had recently married and moved with his wife to her new job in Toledo, Ohio. He said he has taken a break from the business to care for the family's two young children, and "it has been very rewarding and humbling being Mr. Mom."

Favorite memory: "The lasting, impressionable memories of the Bluegrass will always be the friends I made," James said.


Bernadette Woods

In Lexington: 2004 to 2005 at WLEX. Weekends

After Lexington: Woods left Lexington for the CBS affiliate in Baltimore.

Favorite memory: "I moved there with no real expectations and came away with lifelong friendships," she said.


Kristie Kubovic

In Lexington: 2006 to 2011 at WLEX.

After Lexington: Kubovic, whose departure came after the station did not renew her contract, is "enjoying a little time off and looking at some different career options."

Favorite memory: Kubovic said she liked most the "horses and great people." Plus, she said, "it was always a pleasure when I would be out and about and viewers would come up to me with so many nice things to say."


Kevin Lighty

In Lexington: 2006 to 2007 at WKYT. Mornings and weekends

After Lexington: Lighty took a position at KSPR in Springfield, Mo., where he is chief meteorologist.

Favorite memory: Keeneland and Harry's restaurant were among his favorite spots.


Lauren Raymer

In Lexington: 2007 to 2010. WKYT. Weekends

After Lexington: Raymer married a Mississippi cotton farmer, moved there and began working at WPTY in Memphis in November.

Favorite memory: Raymer said she misses the culinary delights at Malone's and Jean Farris Winery, where she got engaged, and "laughing and being goofy with Bill Bryant and the morning crew."

What about ... ?

Don't think that we forgot about others. The following either couldn't be reached or did not return requests for comment: WKYT's Jack Smalley; WLEX's Jim Stephens, Mark Taylor, Adam Zeron and Karl Bierach; and WTVQ's Mark Stern, Tim Tyler, Chris Castleman and Jeff Jensen.

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