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“That’s how you become good neighbors”: Harrisburg residents shovel together, applaud city

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It was easy to understand why Barbara Brushart was in a joking mood Tuesday, despite the fact her car was buried under more than a foot of snow.

"We're having flashbacks aren't we," she says laughingly, carrying a shovel full of snow out from under her tire well.

Midtown Harrisburg residents, like Barbara, were far more jovial digging out of this March snowstorm than many were last January. Residents of Penn Street, like Barbara, could barely leave their homes let alone their street. Cars were buried, and roads were too narrow to fit plows.

Barbara felt City of Harrisburg officials were far more prepared for this storm than the blizzard of 2016, which in turn, allowed residents to be equally prepared.

"We knew to move our cars. People on Second Street were notified yesterday and last night so they wouldn't be towed," she said, then adding, "Keep reminding me this is only half the snow we had last year."

The lack of snow compared to the record 28-inch storm a year ago made a big difference for city officials.

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse declared a snow emergency Monday evening, and ordered 16 city plows on the roads beginning at 10 p.m. Monday night, working 16-hour shifts until the snow emergency expires Wednesday at 6 a.m.

In the city's Allison Hill neighborhood, city plows cleared snow emergency routes. Most cars used free parking at a handful of local lots. Other cars avoided getting towed by parking on the sidewalk.

Ricky Tanna didn't mind. He just pushed his snow blower around it.

Every year when it snows, Tanna makes sure all the sidewalks around his block of 17th Street is clear.

"I always help a neighbor in the time of crisis and need," he said. "That's how you become, in my opinion, good neighbors. You separate the difference, get out and do what we need to do."

Others decided to help out in a more personal way.

Overnight, a camp of tents used by homeless collapsed outside the Market Square Presbyterian Church in downtown Harrisburg. The weight of snow badly damaged some tents; others are totaled.

John Mears, who works at the church, said the pastor welcomed around 20 homeless inside to ride out the storm.

"They'll need tent parts and new tends to start over again," Mears said.

On Tuesday, as the storm picked up, Mears made a grocery run to make some Italian sausage for the church's new visitors.

"It makes you feel good," Mears said, holding back tears. "You try to do good for people who have less than you do."