A tale of tow cities (Mpls., St. Paul) after recent snowfall

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 1, 2012 - 7:57 PM

Impound lot opens for the season in St. Paul, but not in Minneapolis

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Vehicles towed after a snow emergency in Minneapolis in 2009.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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Owners of 1,085 vehicles felt the pain of the season's first snow emergency in St. Paul Wednesday and Thursday, getting their vehicles towed for violating parking restrictions. They were some of the 3,890 who also received tickets.

The totals from Minneapolis: zero, and zero. That's because Minneapolis did not declare a snow emergency, pointing out another of the subtle ways in which the Twin Cities can differ.

Snow emergencies can launch in St. Paul when 3 inches or more of snow falls, but the threshold in Minneapolis is 4. The official snowfall in the Twin Cities from Tuesday night into Wednesday, measured at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, was 2.8.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 vehicles are towed in Minneapolis and St. Paul during most snow emergencies.

St. Paul's move got some blowback on social media, with people questioning the need for the emergency. But Dave Hunt, spokesman for the St. Paul Public Works department, said officials who cruised the city Wednesday morning found more than 3 inches on streets in some places, and many sewers blocked by snow, causing meltwater to pond in streets and intersections.

"Plowing would address both of those issues," Hunt said. "If we had not declared yesterday, and this stuff freezes up, it would be several days before we could expect a melt-off. Left like that, it would be hazardous for vehicles and pedestrians alike."

Overnight snowfall totals in cities around St. Paul Wednesday morning ranged from 1.1 inch at Inver Grove Heights to 3.2 inches at Woodbury and Roseville to 7.5 at Blaine.

In Minneapolis, winter operations manager Mike Kennedy said the city didn't declare a snow emergency because the snowfall was short of 4 inches, and because temperatures were expected to climb above freezing in the coming days and to creep to 40 and beyond early next week. City crews plowed thoroughfares and alleys and the centers of side streets, and dug out clogs above catch basins.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

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