The season's first snow emergencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul made for a stressful and financially painful day for hundreds of drivers who didn't move their vehicles and spent Wednesday at the impound lot retrieving their wheels.
St. Paul police issued nearly 850 tickets and the city had 251 vehicles towed from streets where parking was not allowed on the first night of the snow emergency. By 9:30 a.m., 220 vehicles had been towed in Minneapolis — but tow trucks hauling two vehicles at a time kept arriving all morning and into the afternoon at the city's impound lot. One truck had "No Worries Towing and Recovery" stamped on its side.
There was plenty of worry for Rodney Wilson, who was preparing to move out of his north Minneapolis duplex Wednesday. Wilson said he didn't get a notification about a snow emergency, and after plows partly cleared 3rd Avenue N., he figured after 10 p.m. it was safe to park on the street near his rented home to make it easier to load up.
But Wilson's vehicle was towed, and he paid nearly $200 to cover a ticket and towing fee at the impound lot Wednesday.
"That was the last money I had," he said. "It hurts."
Compounding matters, Wilson said he needed another $400 to bring his vehicle registration and insurance current so he could drive. And he was going to have to ask his landlord if he could stay extra time in his rented home, he said.
Jessica Hellmer and her wife, Riley, took an Uber to the impound lot on Van White Memorial Boulevard to get Hellmer's Ford Taurus back. Hellmer, who took part of a day off from her research job at the University of Minnesota, said she thought there might be a snow emergency, but signs in her Uptown neighborhood didn't make it clear where or when she could or could not park.
"I didn't know I did anything wrong," she said. "There is a lot of emotional stress, and I'm out $200."
Riley was more direct, calling the ordeal "a nightmare."
Minneapolis' snow emergency went into effect at 9 p.m. Tuesday and will last through Thursday night. On Day 1, which was Tuesday night, parking was not allowed on either side of a street labeled a "Snow Emergency Route" until 8 a.m. Wednesday, or until the street was fully plowed. On Day 2, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, parking was banned on the even-numbered side of streets. On Day 3, Thursday, parking will be prohibited on odd-numbered sides of streets from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or until the street is fully plowed.
The rules in St. Paul are slightly different. On Day 1, parking was not allowed on streets posted with "Night Plow Route" signs and in the downtown area. On Wednesday, parking was prohibited on streets designated a "Day Plow Route." Day Plow Routes are not marked by signs. If there are no "Night Plow" signs posted within the block, then the street is considered a "Day Plow Route," said spokesperson Lisa Hiebert.
"To avoid a ticket or tow, do not park in areas where streets are not plowed to the curb," the city said.
Both cities have snow emergency hotlines that residents and visitors can call for recorded information: 612-348-7609 in Minneapolis and 651-266-7569 in St. Paul. The cities also have services allowing people to sign up to receive text and e-mail messages. In Minneapolis, residents can sign up to receive an automated phone call. Both cities post parking information on their websites and post messages about snow emergencies on social media.
Hassan Shire said he thought he knew the rules when he parked along 31st Street in south Minneapolis. But when he was leaving for work Wednesday, something was missing in front of his apartment.
"Nothing was there," he said, referring to his vehicle. He took the day off from his school bus driving job to get it back. "It's an inconvenience."
It was a busy day, however, for tow truck drivers.
"I've got more to get," said Frank Britten, with Corky's Towing, after dropping off a vehicle at the Minneapolis impound lot about noon. "I'll be at it all day."
Lines at the windows in Minneapolis were short Wednesday morning, but that was of little solace for Wilson.
"It's going to be a long, cold winter," he said.