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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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STORM CHASERS"The Lemery brothers are pictured standing by their storm chaser truck. All decked out with hail proof exterior and bullet proof windows. Along with various types of electronic equipment. Shown left to right are Paul, left, Todd, middle and Geno, right standing with their truck after returning from storm chasing.

Lemery Brothers Bond Through Storm Chasing

Issue Date: June 7, 2017

Tornados are usually thought of as destructive forces that destroy buildings and tear things apart, but for one trio of brothers, they're the bond that keeps them close.

Geno, Paul and Todd Lemery are avid-storm chasers, tracking storms throughout the country about 12 times a year in their truck equipped with a hail-proof exterior, bulletproof windows and a dozen cameras. They've tracked down tornados and other storms in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, among others.

Everybody knows families that drift apart over time and they don't talk so much," Todd said. "Especially with this storm chasing, we're talking constantly back and forth, calling each other."

The brothers have been chasing down storms since the early 1980s. They were born in Menominee, where Geno and Todd still live. Paul lives and works in Peshtigo. The first storm they tried to chase went through near Abrams, and from then on, "it became a challenge," as Todd stated.

They pointed out a few events that may have peaked their interest in storms, including their house being hit by lightning when they were kids, leading to a fire. They also remembered seeing a tree being hit by lighting as they watched from the window at their grandparents' house.

"I remember it distinctly when it got hit by lighting," Geno said in reference to the fire at their home. "I remember that like it was yesterday. That's burned into my mind, into my memory."

"I always thought "The Wizard of Oz' was it," Paul joked. "If we're ever chasing and I see flying monkeys, I'm done," Geno said.

Those fires could also have been what motivated all three to become firefighters. Todd is a full time firefighter for the City of Menominee, while Geno and Todd are volunteer firefighters in Menominee-Ingallston and Peshtigo, respectively. Geno also works at Winsert, Inc., while Paul works at Precision Iceblast Corporation in Peshtigo.

Since they began chasing down storms, they've kept each other interested in chasing down storms and their dedication has never decreased, Geno said.

"My interest hasn't waned all these years," Todd said. "It's only intensified. All winter long, I just sit there thinking about it" it's horrible. It's like a kid waiting for Christmas all year long."

Storms worth tracking occur in America's heartland from April until October, although the peak months are during May and June.

During that time, it's all about the storms. Geno and Paul say they're always making sure no important meetings are scheduled during May, when storms are most likely. For Todd, summer months means a lot more time spent checking the weather.

Todd admits that he's in "nerd-ville land" when it comes to checking weather models, and wouldn't put a number on the amount of hours he spends looking at weather each day. "I'd hate to say what I spend" If I said I only spent an hour and a half, I'd be lying," he said.

He said he spends the time each morning checking between 10 and 15 days into the future for updated weather models. When's checking the weather, he's not hoping for warm temperatures and sunshine, like most people would.

"I'm always cheering for bad weather," he said.

"This kind of weather is boring," Geno said, looking out at the sunshine, on a 75-degree day in Peshtigo. "The other stuff's exciting."

For Geno, hoping for extreme weather isn't just for the summer months, either. "If we're going to get a snowstorm, I don't want two inches. I want two feet," he said.

Despite the fact that Todd checks the weather for upwards of an hour and a half and Geno claims to only spend 10 minutes a day, the decision on which storm to chase is always a mutual decision, the group said.

They usually decide on potential storm a seven to 10 days before the storm is expected to occur. They said they used to sometimes make incorrect predictions, but that's not the case anymore. "We don't miss," Paul said.

"We'll argue about it and we end up coming up with the best answer and that works very well," Paul added. "There's so many variables and so many ideas. You're looking at temperatures and cloud cover and rain and humidity."

"We'll debate back and forth why we should go after this one or that one and eventually we might just hit a right note," Todd said.

Geno said there's usually two responses he gets when people learn about the trio's storm chasing. "Either you're nuts or they're jealous," he said.

They offered similar descriptions of the moment they're chasing, when they track down a storm, get a good angle on it, and capture the moment on photo and video. Todd and Paul said that when they're in the moment, they "just enjoy it."

"Just take it in," Geno said. "Because you know it's a lot of work to get to that point. That's what you've been hoping for all day, or maybe all year."

"Every guy should try it at least once. It should be on every guy's bucket list" Todd said. "It's thrilling."

They offered some advice for those wanting to try out storm chasing. "You have to just do it," Paul said. "You can't just drive out there and do it, but start researching and start learning."

They also agreed that you shouldn't go alone. "If someone else does want to chase, don't go alone. You need someone to just drive and at least one other person to watch what's going on" Three works better but two works fine," Todd said.

It's not just a hobby they enjoy with one another. It's a hobby they need each other to pursue.

As Geno said, "It's a bond that holds us together."


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