The City of Minneapolis is going electronic in its effort to inform residents and those who work or visit the city when a snow emergency is declared.
Messages will appear on 17 digital signs on downtown streets when parking restrictions will be in effect when a snow emergency is called. In addition, announcements will appear on 12 digital billboards operated by Clear Channel Outdoor.
"We have so many ways for people to know when we have a snow emergency, and now we have one more: electronic-message signs downtown," said Mayor R.T. Rybak. "The more residents, workers and visitors in Minneapolis are aware of snow emergencies and follow the clear rules, the faster we can plow the streets and make them passable for everyone."
The new signs will complement myriad other method the city uses to get the word out. Among them are a hotline that people can call to learn if a snow emergency has been declared. The number is 612-348-7669.
Minneapolis also posts notices on Facebook, Twitter and the city's website, www.minneapolismn.gov/snow. In addition, the city also sends out e-mails to those who subscribe at www.minneapolismn.gov/snow/snow_esubscribe, and places automated phone calls to residents who register their home or cell phones at www.minneapolismn.gov/snow.
A mailing describing the snow emergency procedures was mailed to about 167,000 addresses, said city spokesman Casper Hill.
The new tool comes as the snow season is still young, and on the heels of an unusually dry winter. Last year only 22.3 inches of snow fell in the Twin Cities and there were no snow emergencies in Minneapolis. St. Paul declared one.
"Odds are we won't be so lucky this time," said City Council member Sandy Colvin Roy, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works Committee. "Everyone who drives in Minneapolis should sign up for Snow Emergency alerts. We hope the variable message signs and the digital billboards will let us reach those drivers who have yet to sign up."
Minneapolis also will air videos in several languages explaining the snow emergency process on cable channels 14 and 79.