Snow Emergency plowing continues, and you can help the blizzard cleanup

Update for Dec. 14, 2010

As soon as crews finished plowing routes for Day Three of the Snow Emergency Monday night, they started the process over again with Day One of the new Snow Emergency. Crews have been on the roads around the clock since Friday, working to clear the City's 1,500 miles of streets and alleys. Plows were out working on Snow Emergency routes overnight, and a second round of alley plowing was also completed Monday night.

Day Two of the Snow Emergency ends at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, and Day Three begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. Although there are no parking restrictions during the overnight period, City crews will continue snow and ice control through the night, as well as beginning to haul snow out of Downtown. During the overnight hours, they will work on enhanced snow cleanup, which includes clearing the snow windrows (the piles of snow that form between the sidewalk and the street) from Marquette and 2nd Avenues. They will also work on clearing sidewalk corners, beginning primarily in Downtown. They will plow the odd side of non-Snow Emergency routes beginning on Day Three of the Snow Emergency, starting Wednesday morning.

Important things for the public to know today (more detail below):

Plows are having more success because more people are following the parking rules

Now that folks have had a chance to dig their vehicles out of the snowbanks, crews are seeing that more people are following Snow Emergency parking rules and moving their cars out of the way of the plows. One of the biggest challenges to our plow drivers during the first Snow Emergency was that many people’s cars were so buried that it was very difficult to get them out. That problem was one of the major factors that made a second Snow Emergency necessary.

Crews have now plowed every street at least once, and improved parking compliance means that plows are able to better clear the parking lanes during this Snow Emergency. However, the immense volume of snow means it may not be possible to clear streets as wide as they would with smaller snowfalls, although plow drivers are doing the best they can to move as much snow as possible off the streets, while trying not to bury sidewalks.

Spreading the word about our new Snow Emergency

The City has used all its communications tools to let the public know about the new Snow Emergency, and to ask them to spread the word to friends and neighbors. Automated phone calls, e-mails, text messages, website information, the 348-SNOW hotline, 311, social media websites, and the City's cable channels are all being used extensively to alert folks about the Snow Emergency, in addition to local news coverage. As of early Tuesday afternoon:

Now is the time for the public to help get our sidewalks clear

With the weekend’s record-setting snowfall, it is especially important for property owners to clear off their sidewalks the best they can, as soon as possible. With this much snow, an unshoveled sidewalk can trap people using wheelchairs. It can also slow down emergency responders. The corners especially need attention, as Public Works crews are focusing resources on clearing Minneapolis streets as soon as possible.

Sidewalks are a critical part of our City's transportation system. For people on the way to and from their cars, the bus, the train, and even for the entire trip, clear sidewalks make the difference between a comfortable, safe route and a potentially hazardous or even impossible one. That’s why it’s important for homeowners and businesses to keep their sidewalks shoveled, and it’s the law.

Drive and park smart to help everyone get around

To help keep traffic moving, drivers should do their part to reduce delays. The most important thing drivers can do is to not contribute to traffic congestion is to not "block the box," (driving into an intersection when there is not enough room for your vehicle to make it completely through the intersection.) When the traffic signals change, cars that are blocking the box keep cross traffic from moving, stopping up traffic in both directions.

Instead, drivers should make sure there is room to pull all the way through before entering the intersection. Being patient and sometimes waiting for the next green light will significantly improve traffic flow for everyone. Blocking the box is also illegal and could result in a ticket.

Because of the large volume of snow, in some parts of the city, snow has been piled in the parking lane at some parking (metered and non-metered) spaces. If a space is blocked by snow, drivers should not park in the driving lane. Also, look for parking signs in some snow piles indicating temporary parking restrictions.

Other ways the public can help

We know that there has already been a lot of cooperation between neighbors to get through the storm in Minneapolis, and we know that will continue. Here are some other ways the public can partner with the City to get us through the cleanup from this blizzard:

  • Spread the word that a new Snow Emergency has been declared by letting your friends and neighbors know.
  • If you see neighbors who are having a hard time getting their cars dug out, lend a hand if you are able.
  • If you have a street or alley that hasn’t been plowed, let the City know by calling 311.
  • Shovel out the fire hydrant on your block.
  • Make sure to clear a path three feet wide from your garbage cart and recycling bin to the alley or street. Also make sure your cart and bin can be moved freely
  • Join together with neighbors and shovel out alley approaches.

Why we need a second Snow Emergency

City plowing crews have been doing their best in tough circumstances, and they’ve been faced with the same challenges that residents have dealt with in accessing the streets in the days following the storm. Crews have been out 24-hours a day since Friday evening, working to plow 1,500 miles of city streets and alleys. Plowing has been slow-going, because of the number of parked cars, stuck cars, and occasionally, a stuck plow. The large volume of snow piling up is so high that it has become very challenging to clear enough to leave adequate street width for normal parking and access.

We know many people were not able to move their cars out of the way of the plows, and complying with the parking rules has been a real challenge for residents. City crews have been doing their best, and folks throughout Minneapolis have been doing their best as well. But there’s still more to do to ensure our roads are safe and drivable for our residents and our public safety vehicles.

After the first Snow Emergency, many residential streets still had stuck cars or significant amounts of snow on them. The City declared a second Snow Emergency to give crews the opportunity to do a more thorough job, hitting streets that still need attention, and revisiting streets that can be widened.

What’s next

Following this new Snow Emergency, officials will re-evaluate the conditions and how they will affect public safety and mobility. Depending on the conditions, it is possible that the City will institute Winter Parking restrictions.

The worst conditions in decades

This weekend’s blizzard was a historic storm – the fifth largest in Minneapolis history, and the largest December snowfall ever. More than 17 inches had fallen by Saturday night, the most since the Halloween blizzard of 1991. It’s technically not even winter, and we’re getting close to reaching the amount of snow we have in an entire season. So far 34 inches of snow has fallen in Minneapolis and the average snowfall for an entire winter is 48 inches.

Published Dec 14, 2010