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PennDOT manager remembers Blizzard of '93 as truck operator

If you were old enough to remember, you probably have at least one story to tell from the Blizzard of 1993. If you were working during it, you probably have several.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Jeff Luongo is PennDOT's highway maintenance manager in Pike County, and he worked for the department 30 years ago, too. Back then, he was a plow truck operator. Luongo says he will never forget his first major storm on the job, which some still consider the storm of the century, the storm that hit 30 years ago this week.

"(I was in truck) 197, it was a single axel, I'll never forget it. It was great," Luongo recalled.

Thirty years ago, in March of 1993, Luongo was 26 years old and only in his second year working at PennDOT as an operator.

"My run was (Interstate) 81 down to the Central City Expressway, to Davis Street, back up. Just keep circling all night. It's funny because now that you ask, it does bring back some memories," he said.

Luongo says he will never forget when it was time to change shifts that first night of what became the days-long storm of the century. He says he turned his radio on only to hear how many people could not make it to work that night. And at 26 years old, Luongo had no problem working a double.

"Maybe 3, 4 o clock in the morning; I'm on 81 down by Davis Street, right in front of the station. I had to get out; I had to stretch my legs. I get out right in the middle of 81, just looking around, looking at how peaceful. There was no wind yet, just snowing really hard. I'm just looking around, it was up to my knees, just taking it all in," he remembered.

Luongo ended up working a 24-hour shift that first day of the storm, which he says is not recommended but was necessary during the state of emergency. But after that first day, the storm was certainly not over.

"That Sunday morning, I remember the heavy winds started to come in. It blew so hard. Everything that you did was all covered back over again. That was tough. I believe we spent about a week cleaning everything up, but that's what I remember about the Blizzard of '93," he said.

As Luongo prepares for this week's storm as Pike County's maintenance manager, he says nothing will ever compare to his time as an operator for PennDOT.

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