KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For decades, he has been the most prominent meteorologist in Kansas City, guiding countless families through all types of weather events, with an unwavering goal of keeping them safe. Later this year, KSHB 41 Chief Meteorologist Gary Lezak plans to retire.
He leaves this chapter of his life with amazing stories, memories and unique moments that defined his incredible career.
“Kansas City, you welcomed me to this town 30 years ago, and it has been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Chief Meteorologist Gary Lezak said in a release by the station Tuesday. “I have considered this choice for some time now, and I am not making this decision lightly. I know there are so many viewers in Kansas City and beyond who I have had a friendship and relationship with over the years. It’s been an honor to share the weather forecast in a fun and educational way. I sincerely hope I have had a positive impact on their lives."
Gary’s fascination with weather started as a hobby when he was 5 years old. He would look forward to those rainy days, but also kept his eye to the sky. After high school in 1980, Gary attended the University of Oklahoma where his hobby turned into a career. In 1985, he graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology and started what would become a legendary broadcast career.
Gary didn’t have to go far for his first major on-air meteorologist job. In 1986, he became the morning meteorologist at KWTV-TV in Oklahoma City. In 1992, Gary moved to Kansas City, where he has now been for nearly 30 years. Gary began developing his deep-rooted relationship with the Kansas City community through live shots and events all over the region, celebrating the unique places and helping people get ready for their days.
In 1999, Gary became chief meteorologist at KSHB 41. He established himself and his weather team as the most accurate in Kansas City, winning several WeatheRate awards for being most accurate. Gary has been on the air for some of the biggest weather events in Kansas City history including the May 4, 2003, tornado and the May 28, 2019, tornado. In 2021, Gary marked the 10-year anniversary of the deadly Joplin tornado by traveling to the city to tell stories about the lessons learned that will make people’s lives safer across the Midwest.
“Gary’s impact on this region is unmatched,” KSHB/KMCI vice president and general manager Kathleen Choal said in the release. “His dedication to telling a weather story in his own unique way, while serving our community through hundreds of projects, fundraisers and over a thousand school visits speaks to his dedication of serving the people of Kansas City at the highest level. We are incredibly grateful for everything Gary has done to make this region a better place."
An animal lover, Gary has given time and support to the causes he is most passionate about. Gary has been the emcee of the Wayside Waifs Fur Ball for 18 years and helped the organization raise more than $25 million over nearly two decades. Additionally, Gary has hosted 20 pet telethons raising over $2 million. He’s also hosted the Dog-N-Jog benefitting the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City for 25 years. Gary has been known to share airtime with his well- known dogs Sunny and Rainbow
By far, the biggest challenge in Gary's life was when he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called extra- skeletal osteogenic sarcoma in 1999. The doctors discovered it was very aggressive and recommended Gary undergo extensive chemotherapy to ensure the cancer was removed from his body. Two surgeries to remove the cancer were performed before chemotherapy treatments could begin. Gary is now cancer-free since 2000 and celebrates every day! He shares his cancer experience and his passion for weather at the annual Cancer Action Volunteer Awards Banquet he has emceed for 20 years.
“For decades, Gary has been a leader for our team, along with being an incredible ambassador for this region,” KSHB/KMCI news director Matthew Waggoner said in the release. “Gary has made it his mission to keep families safe and prepared, while always giving back. While we will miss Gary on the air each day, we know he will continue to pursue his love for weather and forecasting."
Gary’s last day will be Dec. 1, 2022. Over the next several months, KSHB 41 will feature many great and memorable moments from his storied career in Kansas City. Once Gary steps away from the anchor desk, he plans to pursue his passion for long-range weather forecasting through his entrepreneurial efforts that could save lives during severe weather events.
“It’s time to move on to my next journey in this incredible life we all have. Let’s all enjoy right now, and we can look forward to what is ahead of us,” Lezak said.