They are the words that can strike a panic for anybody who parks on the street in Minneapolis or St. Paul: “Snow Emergency.”

Suddenly vehicle owners must scramble to find a safe haven for their wheels. Fortunately, both cites have an app for that.

We put them to the test to see if they really can help drivers avoid a ticket, tow and trip to the impound lot.

Both apps feature maps that show city streets colored green where it’s legal to park and red where it’s not. But don’t totally trust them. Be sure to click on the tabs for parking rules that apply to each day of the snow emergency.

That’s easy to do using Minneapolis’ app. The home page tells a user that a snow emergency is in effect, whether it’s Day 1, Day 2 or Day 3. Links below outline specifics for each day, with details on which side of the street to park on. There’s even a diagram for those who are picture-oriented.

The app also features buttons to sign up for e-mail and text alerts. The snow emergency hot line and a link to the city’s website also appears. Overall, it’s simple to use.

St. Paul’s, on the other hand, is a bit more cumbersome. But we might cut the capital city some slack. The app just debuted this week, coincidentally with a snow emergency, and still has a few bugs.

A cool feature is that users can choose “night” or “day” and St. Paul’s map will show where parking is and is not allowed. That works great if you know which rules are in effect at the time.

What really muddies things up is a third button labeled “now.” Allegedly that should show which streets don’t allow parking at the present, but tap it and the entire map shows green. (But if you stick to the “day” and “night” buttons, you should be OK.)

Equally confusing is a tab on the left that says “Notifications.” Tap that and it says “there are currently no notifications to display.” Say what? Wednesday is Day 2 of the snow emergency. Word is that only notifications issued after one downloads the app will appear. Users won’t see any previous information, said Joe Erickson of the city’s Public Works Department.

On the plus side, St. Paul’s app offers a lot more information than the Minneapolis one. Tabs direct users to helpful information, such as the rules for parking on day and night plow routes. It also has links that provide ticketing and towing information, how to reclaim a vehicle that has been towed and addresses and phone numbers of the city’s two impound lots.

St. Paul also offers SnowAlerts via e-mail and text messages in four languages.

The app is available in English and Spanish, and provides a link to snow emergency information in eight languages.

Minneapolis wins for simplicity while St. Paul wins for overall usefulness, at least once glitches are worked out. The bottom line: There’s no reason not to know when either city declares a snow emergency and what exactly that means.