The dance of the snowplows, tow trucks and parked cars is poised to begin. Forget the steps at your own risk.
Newcomers to the Twin Cities may soon discover the fine points -- and the fines, period -- involved in snow emergencies.
With "plowable snow" almost certain to fall within weeks, residents will again engage in the car-parking drill that is both familiar and high-risk.
"The bottom line, folks, is: This is Minnesota. It's winter. It's going to snow," St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Tuesday, sounding a preseason heads-up in a news conference with Minneapolis officials. "Shovel your sidewalks, clear out your driveway, and move your car if there's a snow emergency."
Officials from both cities noted that about 95 percent of vehicle owners comply with snow emergency requirements. That leaves a small number -- likely new arrivals, visitors and people who've gone out of town -- vulnerable to having their cars ticketed and towed to enable plows to clear the streets, they said.
Snow emergencies are somewhat elaborate prescriptions for where and when to park on city streets. They differ from city to city though they often are called simultaneously.
Officials emphasized Tuesday that both core cities have extensive, multilingual snow emergency information services, including hotlines, e-mail alerts and webpages.
St. Paul discontinued an automatic telephone snow emergency alert this year. Public Works Director Bruce Beese said the $50,000-per-year program didn't clearly result in fewer cars being towed. Minneapolis has continued its automatic dialing.
"Our mission is to plow snow. It's not to tow cars," said Minneapolis Public Works transportation maintenance director Mike Kennedy.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646
SNOW EMERGENCY FACTS
• Cost of ticket and tow for violators: St. Paul, $243; Minneapolis, $172.
• Average tows to impound lot: St. Paul, 820; Minneapolis, 1,500.
• Minimum snowfall/trigger: St. Paul, 3 inches; Minneapolis, similar but unspecified.
• Cost to city: About $500,00 in each city.
• Snow emergencies last winter: St. Paul, four; Minneapolis, three.