If you’re new to Minnesota and confused about our rules, here’s some handy advice. Print it off and tape it to the inside of your windshield for quick reference.
Q: What is this snow emergency that keeps being declared?
A: In the early 20th century, an official came out of City Hall, accompanied by heralds who blew a brief trumpet fanfare; he unrolled a scroll and read a proclamation of the emergency. This was a copy of the original Declaration of Emergency, signed by City Council members in 1862; it is now on display at the city archives.
Q: How can snow have an emergency? That sounds frightening.
A: No, not at all. A snow emergency is declared when snowfalls require serious plowing. It’s a rather excessive term, if you ask me; I’d go with “Your Basic Snow-Type Situation There,” or perhaps “PlowFest 2019.” A heart attack is an emergency, but ambulance dispatchers don’t say, “We’ll be there between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., if you’re on the odd side of the street. Otherwise, tomorrow.”
Ultimately, it just means you will be towed if you park certain places. Or not. I’ve passed cars with a wad of tickets as thick as the IRS regulations under the windshield wiper, and they never get towed.
Q: If the street has been plowed, can I park there?
A: Yes. And you will worry about getting towed until you get back to your car.
Q: What happens to all the snow that is plowed?
A: It’s melted, bottled and shipped to Fiji, where it’s sold as Minnesota Water.
Q: What are the rules?
A: On the first day of the emergency, no parking is allowed anywhere, including your driveway; it’s best to keep circling the 494-694 beltway until the sirens sound the all clear. The next day is designated as odd-side parking — people who are considered to be on the odd side can park anywhere they want. After 5 p.m., parking is allowed on the outwardly normal but secretly hiding a bizarre fetish or preference side of the street.
Parking is allowed on the even side of the street when you flip a quarter and it comes up heads two times out of three. Note: In the event of heavy snowfall on Day Two of an emergency, this is changed to three times out of five. Consult the city website for details; you can flip the coin online, which will generate a code you can use to contest your ticket.
Q: What’s the most important thing to know about driving in snowy conditions?
A: Accidents are common and can cause massive delays for everyone, so it’s crucial that you drive as fast as possible to get home before the accidents happen. That seems to be the theory of some drivers, anyway.
Q: How much snow do I need to remove from my rear window before I start driving, veering from lane to lane with little disregard for those behind me?
A: Don’t worry about it. If there’s an ambulance coming up behind you, you’ll hear it eventually.
Q: Is that everything I need to know?
A: Only one more thing: Ignore everything you just read.