Tow trucks and snowplows will be out again Thursday, attempting to clean up the latest 3 inches of powder as snow-emergency rules continue in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

While residents woke to find a white Christmas, street plowing supervisors saw an opportunity to get at troublesome residential streets bogged by a frozen December.

"We've got a window right now where temperatures are somewhat moderate to get into the residential areas," said David Hunt, a spokesman for St. Paul's Public Works department. "Our concern is driven by the fact that the coldest weeks of the winter are coming in early January."

One foreman at the St. Paul plow garage grumbled that "it's no fun working on Christmas." But Minneapolis Public Works Director Mike Kennedy said "it wasn't a close call to declare a snow emergency."

He said the 3 inches that fell on Christmas Eve followed several incidents of an inch here and there dropping since last week.

"In the high-density areas of Uptown and along University Avenue, we can't do much good with the plows without asking people to move their cars," Kennedy said. "People are back to work Thursday and the normal cadence of the city beat picks up again, so this is our one opportunity for a little while to really get in and clean up the streets at full width."

Snow totals from the Christmas Eve storm ranged from 1.2 inches in Duluth to 3.4 inches in Rochester. National Weather Service forecaster Tony Zaleski says there's a 50-50 chance of maybe another inch on Thursday in the Twin Cities and much of the state. After that, a dry period should run through Saturday as temperatures inch into the 30s before another subzero slam starts Sunday.

"The forecast doesn't call for snow, and the pattern of an inch every other day was killing us," Kennedy said.

Don't expect any holiday mercy at impound lots.

"If we declare a snow emergency, it's an all or nothing thing and we expect people to comply with the rules or be subjected to a tag and a tow," Kennedy said. "We get more people who complain about us doing a lousy job on their streets and not towing than we hear about enforcing the rules."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767