DULUTH – In a city with a reputation for its harsh winters, officials haven’t declared a snow emergency in more than a dozen years.
Duluth’s lack of signs makes it almost impossible to enforce the city’s special parking rules that would temporarily require residents to remove their cars from designated streets during significant snowfalls, city officials said.
That all could change soon.
The City Council began to take up the issue Monday night and in the coming weeks they will vote on an ordinance that would overhaul the city’s process for clearing streets and sidewalks in the winter months.
The plan involves the installation of 2,800 new signs designating the city’s 120 miles of snow emergency routes. On these streets, drivers would be required to temporarily park their cars someplace else to allow plows to completely clear the road.
Jim Benning, Duluth’s public works director, would declare a snow emergency by 4 p.m. Drivers would have until 9 p.m. to move their vehicles — or face getting ticketed or towed.
Minneapolis and St. Paul each declared a handful of snow emergencies last winter, when the Twin Cities received a whooping 77 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Duluth surpassed that total by almost 3 feet. But Benning said he still doesn’t expect to have to declare snow emergencies as frequently as they do in the metro.
“We’re a little hardier up here in Duluth,” he said. “This isn’t going to be a couple inches of snow. When you see it, you’re going to know why I declared it.”
This coming winter, officials said they plan to focus on education more than enforcement. In addition to the new snow emergency policy, which would go into effect for the winter of 2020-21, the city is working to inform residents about their responsibilities to clear sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowfall.