Snow emergency rules create havoc for Twin Cities car owners

Shira Kantor

Winter is here, and along with it the heightened possibility of having to take an unexpected trip to the impound lot.
The declaration of a snow emergency during inclement weather means diminished parking during the time it takes to plow the more than 2,000 miles of streets, alleys, parkways and bridges in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“It’s inconvenient, but they need to plow,” said Stacey Budahl, an employee for Title One Inc., a courier service in Bloomington.
Budahl said while she has never had her car towed, she came close once while living on campus.
“In the middle of the night I had to move my car so they could plow,” Budahl said. “If they would make more available parking it wouldn’t be so bad.”
In St. Paul, three or more inches of snow warrant a snow emergency. Minneapolis has no exact standard, though according to the Minneapolis Office of Public Affairs, typically four to five inches calls for a snow emergency.
In Minneapolis, color-coded signs indicate snow emergency routes. Streets with blue street-name signs and red snow emergency signs are snow emergency routes; those with green or brown street-name signs are not.
Minneapolis streets are plowed in three consecutive 12-hour phases beginning with the declared snow emergency routes at 9 p.m.
Parking restrictions vary with each phase, allowing plows to access both sides of all streets.
Parking could be banned for up to 48 hours on the even sides of Minneapolis non-snow emergency routes when a severe storm is predicted. Temporary signs will be posted 24 hours in advance of snowplowing in cases of an expected storm.
Temporary signs can go up at any time for plowing during a non-snow emergency as well.
In St. Paul, all streets are either night-plow routes or day-plow routes.
Both sides of streets marked with signs reading “Night Plow Route” and one side of north-south residential streets marked “Night Plow Route This Side of Street” are plowed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
The second phase of St. Paul plowing begins at 8 a.m. on unmarked streets.
Kathy Stella, of the St. Paul Public Works Street Maintenance Department, said people need to be aware of the alternating schedule.
“It’s kind of a see-saw game,” Stella said.
In addition to clearing cars from the roads, city ordinances require that within 24 hours of a snowfall, sidewalks of duplexes and single family homes must be shoveled.
Commercial property and apartment building owners have four hours to clear their sidewalks.
Tagged and Towed
Cars left on marked streets during a snow emergency in both cities will be ticketed and towed.
The Municipal Impound Lot is located at 51 Colfax Ave. N. in Minneapolis and is open 24 hours a day during snow emergencies. Those trying to locate a towed car should call (612) 673-5777 with their license plate number in hand.
In St. Paul, cars are towed to the police department’s impound lot off Como Avenue at 1129 Cathlin St., a few blocks west of Snelling Avenue. The phone number is (651) 603-6895.
To reclaim an impounded car, owners need cash, check or credit card, proof of ownership and of insurance for the car. Fees might be added when paying by check or credit card.

Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]