With his snow blower gassed up, Ben Varner and his crew from Team Rubicon went to work, digging out feet of snow that was blocking Cherie Manzano's West 32nd St. home in the City of Erie.
"As soon as we rolled in, they gave me a truck and a crew and said 'get out there and get to work," said Varner, who, with his wife Mitzi, drove to Erie Friday from the State College, Pa. area.
This stop, already the group's fifth Friday afternoon. The group, all volunteers, mostly military veterans coming from all corners of the country to help out. More than a dozen are expected to work in the Erie area through next Friday, according to Mathieu Sanders, a commander for Team Rubicon during what they call "Operation Misery Bay," an ode to Lake Erie's Misery Bay, the home of Oliver Hazard Perry's fleet during the War of 1812.
"I left home this morning, it's about a four-hour drive," Varner said, who was also a member of the Team Rubicon group that assisted with cleanup efforts following the tornado in Millcreek Twp in November. "We've another guy on the crew who's from New York."
And it didn't take long to clear the snow. The walkway, the driveway, even Cherie's car, hadn't been touched since Christmas Eve.
"That was the last day I'd gotten out of my house until today," Manzano said, "so I really appreciate this."
Nearly six feet of snow has fallen on Erie since Christmas Day with another blast expected this weekend, the group is already fielding hundreds of calls at their makeshift command center inside the West Ridge Fire Department. Inside, a map of their upcoming stops.
"A neighbor had called in and she saw us and asked 'please, please come help me... nobody will help me'," said Varner of a previous stop Friday afternoon. "So we went over and took care of her."
The end result is what the group calls "TR (Team Rubicon) Clean," when they shovel and snow-blow everything down to the bare surface to make it as smooth and as clean as it was before the storm.
Team Rubicon not only cleared out Cherie's driveway. But her car -- that hadn't been touched in nearly a week -- is now off of the street, and into the driveway.
"I never would've got my car out," she said. And when asked if this was "Sort of a late Christmas present," she replied, "Oh absolutely, it's more than that."
For someone who lives alone like Cherie does, Team Rubicon's work is also a life-saver.
How to get Team Rubicon to help you
For those needing assistance, dial 211. The line screens for individuals who are disabled or elderly and can't get to clearing off snow themselves. All requests are forwarded to a few groups. 211 is working with emergency management but "Team Rubicon" is the lead group, but the Civil Air Patrol is also assisting those in need in the Erie area, Sanders said.