Snow Emergency

January 14, 2009

I’m not usually one to bitch about Minnesota winters.  But today I reached my limit.  After a nuisance snowfall on a day when the mercury didn’t get above zero, (it’s seven below as I write this) apparently the City of St. Paul, where I live, declared a snow emergency. For those of you in warmer climes, a snow emergency declaration sets off a mad scramble, as citizens are forced to move their cars to allow snowplow drivers to clear neighborhood streets. I live on a so-called “night plow route,” so when a snow emergency is called, my wintry task is to move my truck to the nearest day plow route. I guess our sleep deprived household didn’t get the memo.  I learned about the snow emergency this morning, when I glanced out the window at the spot where my Ford F-150 normally sits.  Gone.

So here’s all I have to do to get my truck back:  I simply convince my wife to bundle up our newborn and toddler and drive me to the impound lot, where I, along with hundreds of other local souls who apparently live under rocks, will have the privilege of writing a check for $250 to get my wheels back.  I can assure you, dear Peepers, I won’t be the crabbiest guy at the lot. I’ve heard the scene can get pretty nasty.

I’m not looking for sympathy. This is the first time I’ve ever had my car towed during a snow emergency, and the $250 fine won’t force a decision, as it does for some, about whether it’s even worth retrieving the car. (About 10 percent of those towed during a snow emergency actually decide their car is not worth the $250, and the city ends up auctioning off the abondoned junkers, usually for pocket change.) This is life in the city, and, for me, snow emergencies are part of the trade-off for short commutes and being able to walk to coffee shops and restaurants.  My only beef is this:  in an era where communication has never been easier, why do I still need to tune in to the 10 p.m. news or turn on the radio to find out that a snow emergency has been declared?  The city had set up an automated phone service a few years ago to notify people of snow emergencies.  We signed up. Turns out the $50,000 annual investment of taxpayer money wasn’t resulting in a significant reduction in traffic to the impound lot.  So they discontinued the service this year.  I wish they had notified me that the notifications were ending.

C’mon St. Paul.  Let’s get with the times.  Send me a Tweet.  Or a text. Or an email. Or something.  In this highly connected city, surely we can come up with a cost-effective snow emergency notification system that doesn’t force us to stay up for the news.