Lots of snow means lots of vehicles to tow to Minneapolis impound lot

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 6, 2013 - 11:19 PM

That’s at least how many vehicles were towed in Minneapolis. The news was better in St. Paul.

As bitter cold descended on the city late Friday afternoon, Brianna Rice stood in a spot that made her day just a degree worse: at the impound lot. In line.

The snow emergency declared Wednesday night claimed her Mazda 3 sedan when she left it on a snow emergency route and it was towed.

It was one of at least 1,224 vehicles taken to the city’s impound lot just west of downtown during the course of the emergency, which requires parked vehicles to be off streets that require plowing.

The tow tally was about average in Minneapolis despite an increasingly aggressive city communications ­campaign that includes texts, a telephone hot line, overhead street signage, Facebook posts and even rhyming tweets from Mayor R.T. Rybak to warn vehicle owners.

Rybak even tweeted a series of rap messages. Here’s one:

“Here in Fun City

“Rock out, wine and dine.

“But from snow emergency routes

“Move your car by nine.”

The problem, at least for Rice, wasn’t that she was unaware of the emergency.

A colleague got a text and told her about it, she said. She moved her car Thursday night to a spot that she thought was safe. “It didn’t work,” she said, theorizing with her friend Christine Miller that the snow emergency route sign that stands a few blocks from her Uptown apartment building applies to her block as well.

In St. Paul, officials reported at least 643 tows as of midafternoon Friday, about half of what the city typically sees in a snow emergency, a city official said.

St. Paul public works spokesman Dave Hunt said the capital city’s rate of towing so far is “below average, which is unusual for the first snow emergency of the season.” Its snow emergency continues until Sunday night.

“We go through a lot of trouble to notify people, but we remind ourselves that whatever the numbers … we’re still getting 98 percent compliance,” Hunt added.

That last 2 percent, he noted, “is an ever-evolving demographic,” he said. “Every year, new people move into the city: renters, college students, foreign nationals who speak little or no English, etcetera, and very often these groups have no experience with winter parking restrictions.”

In southeast Minneapolis, Trinidad Garcia, the owner of an Oldsmobile Alero, wasn’t even sure where his car ended up after it went missing when his street was plowed. He stood in line at the Minneapolis impound lot Friday afternoon with the hope his vehicle was somewhere behind the lot’s chain-link fence.

He said the last time he saw the car it had a $42 ticket on it for being parked on a snow emergency route. He moved it to another spot where he didn’t see a snow emergency route sign.

His cousin Jacob Baker drove him to the lot, and then, after seeing the long line of vehicle owners trying to retrieve their cars, gave this prophesy of snow emergency doom: “I was here for 45 minutes last time and there were five people here.”

The snow emergency expired at 8 p.m. Friday.

Star Tribune staff writers Tim Harlow and Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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