by Erik Hare
This is the first major snowfall of the year, arriving right on schedule for the first day of Winter. The City of Saint Paul has declared its first Snow Emergency of the season. This is a serious event for the city and they try to put it off as long as they can. When there’s this much snow, however, it’s time to get the plows moving.
The basic rule is 3 inches of snow in one storm triggers a Snow Emergency, or an accumulation of 3 inches over several days. When a Snow Emergency is called, they specify whether it starts in the evening or morning. There are two types of streets in Saint Paul, night plow and day plow, both marked with at least one sign per block. You cannot park in the designated period, day or night, until the streets are plowed from curb to curb.
That sets off a scramble where everyone has to move their cars out of the way or risk getting a $30 ticket – or towed. But it’s only for one 12 hour period, and when they’re done with it the roads are clear. The system is a bit of a hassle, but much less than it used to be.
This system was developed in the early 1990s at the insistence of Councilmember Dave Thune. It used to take days to clear the streets, and no one was entirely sure when they could park anywhere. After a trial on the West Side, it was adopted citywide.
It’s not cheap to do things this way, either. The city says that it costs them $500,000 per Snow Emergency to clear the streets, mostly in overtime for the 24 hour plowing. The popular myth that tickets make this profitable is simply not true – and they do their best to put off calling a Snow Emergency unless they have to.
Putting up with bad weather in the Winter isn’t a lot of fun, but the City of Saint Paul is very good at taking care of things no matter how bad it gets. It’s not cheap, but it means we can get around once the storm is over. A little inconvenience moving the cars around is just the price of having the streets clear enough to use a car in the first place.
In the end, however, it’s always best to stay home when the weather gets this bad. That way, you can enjoy the snow without all the hassle of worrying about cars.