Coronado Museum Executive Director JoAnne Mansell poses with Weather Channel Meteorologist Jim Cantore Wednesday during the weatherman’s visit to the Land of Oz. Cantore and a group from Tempest Tours stopped in Liberal Tuesday on their way to sites in western Oklahoma and in Colorado to track severe weather in the region Wednesday evening. L&T photo/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
In “The Wizard of Oz,” the journey of Dorothy Gale through the magical land begins after she is transported there by a tornado.
Wednesday, some storm chasers were on hand in Liberal at Dorothy’s House and the Land of Oz on their way to see some severe weather.
Among the group was Weather Channel Meteorologist Jim Cantore, who said Liberal provides for good possibilities of severe weather as the community is in the heart of Tornado Alley and May is typically the prime time of year for inclement weather in Southwest Kansas.
“We had a lot of storm chasers out there this season, so I’m sure they have passed through and will pass through again before the year’s over,” Cantore said.
Cantore has worked for The Weather Channel for many years, seeing many tornadoes, and this has made him quite knowledgeable of the havoc they can wreak.
“It’s obviously a huge thrill to see that part of it, especially when it’s not harming anyone or anything,” he said. “Those are the ones I like to see the most. That’s what we’re out here to tour. Tempest Tours is a good group, and I think they’re going to find one for us.”
Cantore said being from a small town himself, White River Junction, Vt., Liberal provided not only a good severe weather data base, but it also gave him chance to operate at a slower rate.
“It’s mainly tornado research, but after spending time in a city and a fast paced life, it’s so nice just to come out and visit and not have a lot to do or do nothing,” he said. “It’s very nice to do that. It’s a nice change for me. I’m a small town American boy, and I like going back to those roots.”
Leading the storm chaser group was William Reid, the tour director for Tempest Tours, an Arlington, Texas-based storm chase tour company, who said his company runs tours annually in May and June during the heart of severe weather season on the High Plains.
Reid said this year’s tour began earlier this week, and the group was in Liberal Wednesday along with experts from The Weather Channel because there was a threat of severe weather.
“It looks like there’s two possible target areas,” Reid said Wednesday. “One is in western Oklahoma to our southeast, and one is toward the front range of Colorado near Pueblo. We’re kind of debating which area to play. I’m leaning towards the Colorado target. The reason we’re here is to see severe weather and tornadoes.”
In order to see the best severe weather each day, Reid said his group typically covers 400 to 500 miles a day seeing much of middle America.
Reid said Tempest Tours is not affiliated with The Weather Channel, but a group from the network is following the tour for a few days. Both groups stopped in Liberal Tuesday, and Reid said the Seward County community made a convenient point of rest when the day’s chase had ended.
Despite the tornado tie-in of The Wizard of Oz, Reid said this is not why the group chose to stop at the home of Dorothy.
“It just happened to be here near the motel,” he said. “We had time to kill, so it was a fun place to visit.”
Reid said this year’s tour will likely last about another week.
“We’ll be stopping hopefully where the good storms are,” he said. “We don’t know where that’ll be, and we don’t know how many stops there’ll be, but hopefully, a lot of good stormy weather stops.”