Winter Hazard Awareness Week begins Monday, reminding Minnesotans that, yes, winter is likely to return.

Last winter was one of the warmest and least snowy on record across Minnesota, a season of low heating bills, easy driving and bad skating and skiing.

"It probably lulled a lot of people into complacency," said Mike Kennedy, Minneapolis street maintenance superintendent. "If you look at the population at the [University of Minnesota], and areas of high turnover, there are people that have [arrived] here since March or April of 2011 who've never experienced a snow emergency."

In both Minneapolis and St. Paul, residents recently received this year's snow emergency information in the mail, outlining how they can avoid expensive tows and fines for defying or simply not being aware of snow emergency routines. Both cities offer a wide range of alerts, from a telephone hotline to text messages and social media and basic Web postings. Information is available on their snow websites. Minneapolis also offers a robocall alert system, though St. Paul does not.

The cities' key snow emergency hotline numbers and websites are:

• In Minneapolis, 612-348-SNOW (7669) and www.minn

• In St. Paul, 651-266-PLOW (651-266-7569) and www.stpaul. gov/snow.

Public works officials in both cities try to coordinate when to declare snow emergencies, but parking and plowing details are significantly different in each city. Many suburbs also call snow emergencies, in many cases at lower accumulation levels than the core cities. Also, snow emergencies are more likely to be invoked early in the season, when snow and ice are less likely to melt and more likely to be followed by more.

Snow emergencies are just a few of many winter hazards Minnesotans can encounter. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety is focusing on a range of wintry risks on its website during Winter Hazard Awareness Week. It has posted extensive safety information regarding situations inside and outside the house, as well as on the road, and a look at the meteorology of winter storms.

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646