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Minneapolis and St. Paul have declared snow emergencies to take effect Wednesday evening — the first of what will be days of extraordinary response in anticipation of an extraordinary storm system.

St. Paul will declare back-to-back emergencies, and Minneapolis might as well, officials said. To keep streets clear, both cities have opened up acres of free covered parking for anyone to stash their vehicles through the weekend.

Public schools will be closed for the rest of the week in both cities, and garbage, library and rec center services will be disrupted. Officials said they were in contact with Xcel Energy and drawing up plans should the power go out.

The announcements came Tuesday afternoon in a superlative-filled news conference in which Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter led a host of local leaders imploring residents to prepare immediately for what could be days of hunkering down.

"We are bracing for what is likely to be one of the largest snowstorms in Minnesota history," Carter said. "We expect it to have major impacts across the Twin Cities on every aspect of life, every aspect of city operations, for the rest of this week."

Here are some details.

Minneapolis emergency

Minneapolis will declare a snow emergency Wednesday morning that will take effect starting 9 p.m. Wednesday, Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher said.

The city is currently under one-sided parking restrictions for most residential streets. Those will be waived once the snow emergency begins. Kelliher said the city is considering calling a second emergency, but that decision likely won't be made until the city assesses how the storm is progressing.

She said the city hadn't yet decided how garbage, recycling and compost collection services might be altered by the storm.

While Frey and Kelliher urged neighbors to share parking spaces where possible, more than 1,600 covered spaces were opened for people to park for free. Vehicles can remain there through the storm. The spots appeared to be filling quickly, the city tweeted Tuesday evening.

The following Minneapolis locations are free for vehicles to remain until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28:

  • The farmer's market lot under Interstate 94 at 225 E. Lyndale Av. (309 spots).
  • The Salvation Army lot at 601 N. Fourth St. (332 spaces).

The following privately owned ramps are free until 7 p.m. Sunday:

  • Seven Points Parking Ramp at 1375 W 31st St.
  • MoZaic Art Parking Ramp at 1340 Lagoon Av.

The following lots were listed as full by the city as of 7 p.m. Tuesday:

  • The Vineland Ramp at 727 Vineland Place adjacent to the Walker Art Center (671 spots).
  • The Lyn-Lake lot at 2940 S. Garfield Av. (118 spaces).
  • The Basilica lot under I-94 at 13 N. 17th St. (183 spaces).

Kelliher said the city was also in talks with the Minnesota Department of Transportation about potentially opening up the ABC ramps beneath Interstate 394 on the outskirts of downtown. On Tuesday evening, the A ramp, which has 3,518 spaces, was opened for a $1 daily fee.

St. Paul emergency

Starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, St. Paul will allow residents to park for free in eight downtown ramps owned by the city. About 6,000 spots total will be available in the following ramps:

  • Smith Ramp at 145 Smith St.
  • Kellogg Underground Ramp at 129 Kellogg Blvd.
  • Lawson Ramp at 10 West 6th St.
  • Lowertown Ramp at 316 Jackson St.
  • 7A Ramp at 13 West Exchange St.
  • Robert Street Ramp at 95 East 7th St.
  • Block 19 Ramp at 145 East 7th St.
  • World Trade Center Ramp at 477 Cedar St.

Officials encouraged residents to move their cars before the back-to-back snow emergencies take effect starting Wednesday evening.

St. Paul officials said they will likely not complete all day plow routes Thursday, as crews will be focused on keeping arterial and collector streets clear for emergency vehicles.

"The goal of the second phase will be to remove all the snow [from streets]," said Public Works Director Sean Kershaw. "That may take longer than a traditional snow emergency."

St. Paul will suspend recycling and garbage collection services Thursday and Friday.

Additionally, all St. Paul libraries will be closed Thursday, and some will have adjusted hours Wednesday.