Changes Follow 2007 Valentine’s Day Storm

PITTSTON TOWNSHIP -- You may have been snowed in or even stranded on an interstate 10 years ago. This week marks 10 years since the so-called "Valentine's Day Storm" hit our area.

Part of Interstate 81 in Luzerne County had to be shut down and many drivers were stuck there for hours and hours.

Since that Valentine's Day, changes have been made so crews are better prepared.

Officials we talked to admit not only did their plans to deal with the Valentine's Day storm fall short, but there was not enough emergency planning from top to bottom, from big state agencies to small volunteer fire departments.

Now, that's all changed.

More than 60,000 vehicles travel up and down Interstate 81 in Luzerne County near Pittston every day. Most days, the trip is routine. That was not the case 10 years ago on Valentine's Day, 2007.

Piles and piles of snow, more than a foot and a half deep, swallowed the highway.

"We tried to render the best assistance that we could, but to be stranded like that, you really don't know unless you're involved in it," recalled Pittston Township Fire Capt. Tony Ranieli.

He remembers the only way he and his crew were able to get to the people stranded on the interstate was by ATV.

"That was the only way to access those roadways," said Ranieli.

"Ten years ago? There was just no plan. It was, 'Stand by this phone. If it rings, answer it,'" said Joe Cassaro.

Cassaro worked at the PennDOT control center in Dunmore at the time. He says a lot has changed since then.

"Because of the storm, the February 14 Valentine's Day storm, this room came about."

The room has monitors that display PennDOT's cameras along the highways. In 2007, there were no cameras to monitor conditions.

"Looking back what we have today, we can assist so much better," Cassaro said.

Plus, PennDOT has more message boards on the roads and new technology allows workers to update them faster. Fire departments have more rescue equipment ready to go.

"Like the jaws of life, cutter, stabilization equipment," Ranieli noted.

So if another monster storm happens, they now have the tools available to fight back against Mother Nature.

"It definitely helped everybody realize the preparation that's necessary to be able to tackle those storms and incidents we could have," Ranieli added.

Also new since 2007, drivers can now look at traffic conditions in real time on any smart phone. You can do that by downloading the WNEP mobile app and then click traffic.

Follow these links to download the app on iOS or Android.