Snow-Related FAQs

Q: What is a Snow Emergency?

A: Special parking rules go into effect when a snow emergency is declared to all streets in Saint Paul to be plowed to the curb. The City does not plow alleys. All residents and visitors must move their vehicles off of streets according to the winter parking rules. Vehicles that are not parked according to the winter parking rules will be ticketed and towed up to 96 hours after a snow emergency went into effect at 9 p.m. Always follow all posted signs. Do not park vehicles where signs say “No Parking.”

Many factors are considered before the City declares a Snow Emergency, such as air and road temperatures, future weather forecasts, type of precipitation, and accumulations. The City often declares Snow Emergencies after snowfalls of 3 inches or more.

Check out the Snow Emergency Brochure (PDF) for more details or learn more about the Snow Emergency parking rules.

Q: Why does the City declare Snow Emergencies?

A: Like other major urban cities, off-street parking is very limited in Saint Paul and a large percentage of residents park their vehicles on the street. For this reason, banning parking on streets during the winter months, like most suburban communities do, is not an option. However, if vehicles are not moved, the streets cannot be adequately plowed. Declaring a Snow Emergency allows the City to coordinate on-street parking which in turn allows plows to effectively clear the streets.

Q: How can I find out if a Snow Emergency has been declared?

A: There are several ways to be notified of a Snow Emergency: Click here to subscribe to receive an email and/or text when a Snow Emergency has been declared.

Q: How does the city announce that a Snow Emergency has been declared?

A: When a Snow Emergency is declared, the city immediately:

  • Updates the recorded message on the Snow Plowing Hotline: 651-266-PLOW (7569)
  • Posts an article to the homepage of the city's website and a "Snow Emergency Declared" banner at www.stpaul.gov
  • Sends an email and/or text message to everyone subscribed to the SnowAlert subscriptions
  • Updates city and public works social media channels (Nextdoor, Facebook,  and Twitter accounts: @CityofSaintPaul, and @StPaulPublicW)
  • Contacts local media outlets including radio, television and print
  • Broadcasts a Snow Emergency message on the City’s cable TV Channel 18 and TPT's Emergency Response System

Q: What factors are considered before the city declares a Snow Emergency?

A: There are a variety of factors that are considered before the city declares a Snow Emergency, including: total snow accumulation (on the streets), snow/water ratio, air temperatures during and after the winter weather event, timing of winter weather, current road conditions and road temperatures, and any additional future weather forecasts.

Q: What time does the Snow Emergency start?

A: Snow Emergencies are declared by 3 p.m., but the Snow Emergency parking restrictions always begin at 9 p.m. the day it is declared. Plowing on Night Routes begin at 9 p.m. The next day, Day Route plowing begins at 8 a.m. The 9 p.m. start gives the City time to notify residents in enough time to move their vehicle(s).

Q: How long does a Snow Emergency last?

A: All city streets, more than 1,800 lane miles, are plowed within the first 24 hours of a declared Snow Emergency. Ticketing and towing operations continue for 96 hours after the Snow Emergency began at 9 p.m. After the night plow phase and the day plow phase of the Snow Emergency are complete, follow-up plowing, salting and miscellaneous cleanup follows for as long as is required. Any vehicle parked in an area that has not been plowed to the curb is subject to ticketing and towing for 4 days (or 96 hours) after the emergency went into effect at 9 p.m.

Q: Why are there three phases to a Snow Emergency?

A: Many cities completely ban parking on the streets in the winter months. Having three phases to each Snow Emergency, requires residents to move vehicles according to the Snow Emergency parking rules. These parking rules, and phases, allow crews to effectively plow city streets AND still permits residents to continue utilizing designated on-street parking in areas that plowing operations are not occurring.

Q: How much does the city budget for Snow Emergencies?

A: Generally speaking, the city budgets for an average of four Snow Emergencies per year at an approximate cost of $500,000-$800,000 each. The budget is established for normal/average snow seasons.

Q: I subscribed to receive a text/email when a Snow Emergency is declared, but I am not receiving it. Why?

A: There are a few reasons you may not be receiving the email and/or text message:

  • Your email security settings may be blocking the email notices.
  • Changes may have occurred to your phone service. The most likely explanation involves a change in telephone carriers without a corresponding update provided to the vendor (GovDelivery) who manages the SnowAlert emails and text messages.
  • Your subscription settings may be blocking your ability to receive the message in a timely fashion. Click here to manage your account and review your subscription settings.

Q: How can I find out the Snow Emergency parking rules on my street?

A: Always check for Snow Emergency "Night Plow Route" or "Night Plow Route This Side of Street" signs. These streets, along with downtown Saint Paul, are Night Plow Routes. Streets that do not have any Snow Emergency signs are Day Plow Routes. To learn more about our Snow Emergency parking rules you can use our helpful Snow Emergency Parking Map.

Q: Has the city ever considered banning parking on one side of the street during the duration of the snow season?

A: The city has discussed this option several times. However, a one-sided parking ban for the duration of the snow season would greatly and unfairly inconvenience residents who live in those areas of the city which have a high demand for on-street parking. The City of Saint Paul has had to declare temporary one-sided parking bans in 2014 and 2019.

 

Snow Shoveling FAQs

Q: Who do I contact if my neighbor did not clear their sidewalk?

A: Call the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) at 651-266-8989 or For security reasons, you must enable JavaScript to view this E-mail address.

Q: What if I can’t shovel my sidewalk? What resources are there?

A: Seniors can call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433 (M-F 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.) for help in finding assistance. The Disability Linkage Line at 1-866-333-2466 (M-F 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.) is available for those with a disability. These resources may come with a cost associated. If possible, make arrangements prior to the beginning of the snow season.

Q: I have limited mobility and can’t climb over the snow piles to get to where I need to go. Can the city clear the intersection/sidewalk for me?

A: The city cannot shovel sidewalks citywide for residents and businesses, as the equipment and number of employees needed to do so is cost prohibitive. For help with getting sidewalks cleared, seniors can call the Senior LinkAge Line at 1-800-333-2433 (M-F 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.). The Disability Linkage Line at 1-866-333-2466 (M-F 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.) is available for those with a disability. These resources may come with a cost associated. If possible, make arrangements prior to the beginning of the snow season

Q: My neighbor plows his snow onto the street. Is that okay?

A: No. Shoveling snow onto the right of way is not allowed by ordinance 106.02. Contact the Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) at 651-266-8989 to report violations. Homeowners and businesses are urged to make arrangements with contractors who have the capability to deal with their specific circumstances.

Q: Should I shovel around my fire hydrant?

A: Yes! The city has 7,132 fire hydrants. It is important to keep these clear of snow and ice so firefighters don’t lose precious time shoveling them when they arrive.

Q: Can I plow the street myself?

A: The City does not encourage citizens to use their private equipment to plow a city street, but will not prevent a citizen from doing so. If a citizen chooses to go ahead and plow a street they do so with the understanding they assume all the risks associated with that action, including, but not limited to: Personal injury to any person, property damage to parked or moving vehicles, curbs, sewer structures, light poles, traffic signs, flower boxes, mailboxes and trash cans. The City will not assume liability and urges citizens to consult their personal insurance policies before proceeding with such action.

Q: Whose responsibility is it to shovel out and clear the bus shelters and stops?

A: If the bus shelter does not contain advertisements, call Metro Transit at 612-373-3333, press “0” and ask the receptionist to be connected to Shelter Maintenance. If the shelter does have advertisements, contact CBS Outdoor at 952-920-7657.

Q: Who do I contact if my property is damaged by a snow plow?

A: If your property has been damaged by a snow plow, please call 651-266-9700 or email snowemergency@ci.stpaul.mn.us to report the damaged property and crews will be out to address it.

Q: Who writes the Snow Emergency tickets?

A:

 

Plow Operation FAQs

Q: Does the city plow when a snow emergency has not been declared?

A: Yes. Saint Paul Public Works monitors the weather 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and responds with the most effective treatment (anti-icing and/or plowing) method based on predicted conditions. Prior to any winter event, Public Works will anti-ice streets with a brine solution as conditions allow. As soon as snow or sleet begins to accumulate during any winter event, Public Works begins plowing the busier “arterial” streets to keep them passable and allow traffic to continue flowing. If you live or park your vehicle on one of these streets, you may want to monitor conditions yourself and consider moving your car to allow for a better job of plowing. This will also help avoid you having to dig your vehicle out should it get plowed in. 

Q: Why was a plow on the street next to mine but did not plow my street?

A: There are 80 routes throughout the city; the plow you saw may not be the same plow assigned to your street.

Q: How long does it take to plow the entire city?

A: Saint Paul Public Works plows more than 1,800 lane miles during a Snow Emergency. Saint Paul plows all city-owned streets, as well as maintains many county and state-owned roads during the winter months. When there is 6” or less snowfall it  typically takes approximately 24 hours to plow the entire city one time. With snow accumulations over 6” it can take substantially more time. Once the night and day route phases of plowing is completed after any snow emergency, crews use the remaining 72 hours to clean up efforts which can include clearing intersections, de-icing, salting, or doing "push backs" which is clearing areas where vehicles did not move for the plows.

Q: Why does plowing take so long?

A: Saint Paul contains a total of 1,874 lane miles (the equivalent of driving Saint Paul to Anaheim, California!) which need to be plowed during a Snow Emergency. With a typically Snow Emergency, crews of approximately 80 plows or pieces of equipment, working in two phases (Night Plow and Day Plow Routes) can plow the entire city in less than 24 hours.

Q: Why did the plows leave snow in front of my driveway and on our sidewalks?

A: Because snow plows are designed to push snow to the side, snow will be deposited at the end of driveways and onto sidewalks during plowing efforts. Drivers plow at low speeds (10–15 mph) to minimize this issue, but this problem becomes more challenging to avoid with greater accumulations of snow.

Q: Why do plows leave snow across streets? These piles can be quite high.

A: For the same reason snow ends up in driveways and sidewalks, it also ends up in street intersections. Plow drivers do their best to keep these piles (or windrows) small, but their first job is to get the street passable. Once streets have been plowed, crews come back and knock these windrows down.

Q. The plow dumped snow at the end of my driveway, can they come back to move it?

A. No. With 1,874 lane miles of lane miles within Saint Paul, city plows must stay focused on opening the streets. It would be extremely costly for city crews to remove snow from all driveways.

Q: Is the City responsible for plowing alleys?

A: No, the City does not plow alleys. Saint Paul residents are asked to work with neighbors and contract with a private plow operator to keep alleys free of snow. The City does not open or re-open access to alleys that have snow deposits from City plowing efforts on public streets.

Q: Why do I sometimes see a snow plow truck with its plow up?

A: There are several reasons why you might see a plow truck traveling with a raised plow. The city has 80 plow routes; drivers must travel to and from their assigned route locations from the maintenance facility. Driving with the plow down would cause them to drive slower and to wear out the plow when not driving their routes. Additionally, plow trucks may be seen traveling in situations where snow accumulations are just beginning or if the trucks are traveling along areas which have already been plowed. Lastly, plow trucks also distribute salt and may be spreading de-icing materials, rather than plowing snow.

Q: Why did the plow push snow up onto my shoveled sidewalk?

A: Pushing snow onto sidewalks occurs when the volume of snow is great and snow storage space is minimal. Drivers are trained to carefully plow in order to minimize this issue, but it is an ongoing challenge throughout the snow season and cannot always be avoided.

Q: Why are Saint Paul streets plowed differently than suburban streets?

A: The level of on-street parking in Saint Paul presents a unique challenge to snow plowing – a challenge which is not an issue in suburban communities. Because ample off-street parking is available to most suburban households, many suburban communities are able to ban on-street parking at some level from November to April. This allows suburban public works crews to plow all roads within the city, full width, instantly and around the clock, if necessary. Because of the lack of off-street parking available in Saint Paul (and the subsequent number of cars parked on Saint Paul streets), this is not an option for Saint Paul. This is why the City must declare a Snow Emergency and enact strict, temporary parking rules in order to plow streets. It is impossible to effectively plow a street unless all vehicles have been removed.

Q: When is downtown plowed?

A: All of downtown Saint Paul is considered a Night Plow Route. Please note, downtown streets are the only routes on the night phase which do not contain “Night Plow Route” signs.

Q: What kinds of chemicals do you use besides salt to help clear the snow?

A: The City uses sodium chloride for temperatures above 15 degrees Fahrenheit, magnesium/sodium chloride for temps down to -10 degrees. Once in awhile, the City will use sand for traction below -10 degrees. All salt is pre-wetted with a brine solution to activate the salt as it is applied, which makes the salt more effective because it is more likely to stick in the drive lanes on the streets.

Q: A parked car was in the way before the plow came, can the plow come back?

A: Yes. After the Night and Day Route phases are completed, residents can email snowemergency@stpaul.gov or call the 24-hour Street Maintenance hotline at 651-266-9700 to report any section of their street which was not plowed because of an obstructing vehicle. Street Maintenance staff will compile these reports on a “replow” list. During the Clean Up phase, plows are directed to the areas on the re-plow list. Please note, based on the number and severity of re-plowing requests, some requests may not be addressed until after the expiration of the Snow Emergency. All locations on the re-plow list are visited eventually.

Q: Does the city plow bike lanes, paths and trails?

A: Yes. Crews will plow on-street bike lanes during winter months. Bike lanes on arterial (main) streets will get plowed as part of the regular plowing efforts, however, if there are cars parked in the adjacent parking lanes it can be extremely challenging to remove snow and ice to the pavement. Bike lanes will also be plowed during scheduled posted sanitation bans and Snow Emergencies. Off-street biking paths and trails are maintained and plowed by Saint Paul Parks and Recreation department.

Q: Does the city haul snow away from intersections?

A: No. There are roughly 5,000 intersections within Saint Paul city limits and it is not possible to get to all of them. Residents are required to clear intersection crosswalks of snow. In the event that attempts have been made and it is simply not possible to clear the snow, residents may email snowemergency@stpaul.gov or call the 24-hour Street Maintenance hotline at 651-266-9700 for assistance. The City will do its best to respond but will prioritize requests based on safety first. The city monitors intersections and addresses safety concerns as they are found.

Q. The piles of snow are so high at my intersection I can’t see traffic. Will the piles be removed or knocked down?

A. When the snow piles are high enough for site lines to be impaired, crews use a priority list, based on traffic and pedestrian volumes, to methodically visit these intersections and knock the snow down.

 

 

Ticket & Tow FAQs

Q: Where can I find my car?

A: If your car has been ticketed and towed because of a Snow Emergency violation, the location of the storage lot (impound) will depend on where your car was parked when it was ticketed. Please call the city's impound lots BEFORE traveling to the lot to verify that they have your vehicle -- and to learn what documents you will need to get your vehicle. 

To find your car use the Police Impound Lot locator. 

Enter your car's license plate number OR the vehicle identification number (VIN), and press the "Find Vehicle" button.​ If it is not at either lot, wait an hour and try again, as your vehicle may be in transit.

During the winter months the city has two towing lots.

  • 1129 Cathlin Street (across from the State Fairgrounds): 651-603-6895
  • 830 Barge Channel Road: 651-266-5642

Please note: Impound lots are extremely busy during a Snow Emergency, staff may be unable to answer the phone at times.

Q: What will I need to reclaim my vehicle from a tow lot?

A: To reclaim a vehicle from a tow lot only the registered vehicle owner can claim the vehicle and must bring the following documentation:

  • Proof of ownership for the vehicle
  • Proof of insurance for the vehicle
  • Cash, Visa or a MasterCard to pay the fees
  • Your keys!

Q: Who can I call if there is a parked vehicle that has not moved during a Snow Emergency?

A: Per city ordinance, all vehicles parked on the street may not be parked in the same spot for more than 48 hours. During a Snow Emergency, the city has extra parking enforcement efforts. There are nearly 40 plow routes across the city during a Snow Emergency. Snow ticketers follow plow routes beginning at 9 p.m. for Night Plow Routes and 8 a.m. for Day Plow Routes.

To report vehicles that have not been moved during the current Snow Emergency, residents can call the ticketing office at 651-266-9800 (press option 2) during the Clean Up Phase to report vehicles that have not been moved. Please give the vehicle description, license plate and address location whenever possible.

To report vehicles that have not been moved after 48 hours NOT during a Snow Emergency, please report the vehicle description, license plate and address location to the Saint Paul Police Parking Enforcement Unit at 651-266-5585. 

Q: How much does a ticket cost? How much is the tow?

A: The ticket cost is $56. It will cost $275.08 to get your vehicle out of the impound lot if you pick it up before midnight the day it was towed. A $15 storage fee is added for each additional day the vehicle is left in the lot.

Q: Do the towing companies offer a drop charge to unhook the vehicle?

A: Yes, the fee is $75. The method of payment is up to the towing company. Please note, you are still responsible for paying the ticket.

Q: By the time I got outside to move my vehicle, the parking officer was just writing out a ticket for my vehicle. Why can’t the officer cancel the ticket on the spot?

A: If a snow ticketing official was writing a ticket, it means your vehicle should have been moved by the time they got there. The office cannot cancel the ticket. Once they start writing tickets they are accountable for each ticket. If you have already gotten a ticket, please move your vehicle to avoid getting towed.

Q: I was called out of town unexpectedly during the Snow Emergency and my vehicle is parked on the street. What can I do?

A: City ordinance does not allow a vehicle to be parked on the street in the same spot for more than 48 hours. If you are traveling out of town, make arrangements to not park your car on the street, and/or have needed phone numbers and an emergency plan to leave keys with a trusted friend, neighbor or family member who could move your car if needed. If all else fails and you are not able to find someone to move your vehicle, the city suggests hiring someone to tow your car to a safe location. Hiring a tow company will save you the hassle of going to the impound lot and will allow you to avoid paying ticket fees.

Q: Why can’t you just tow an offending vehicle around the corner and leave it?

A: Once the city (via the contracted tow company) takes possession of the vehicle we need to maintain control of it for safety and liability reasons.

Q: I believe I was ticketed and/or towed from a street which I don’t believe I should have been? What recourse do I have?

A: Your only recourse is to contest the ticket before a hearing officer at the Ramsey County Violations Bureau (RCVB). Contact information for the RCVB is found on the ticket.

Q: Why did my vehicle get towed after the street was plowed?

A: Snow Emergencies begin at 9 p.m. the day they are declared and last 96 hours. Vehicles which are obstructing cleanup plowing are treated just like cars which block plowing during the night or day phases of the emergency. Consequently, the vehicle can be ticketed and towed. 

Q. What happens if my car is damaged during towing?

A. ​The city contracts with private towing companies who are required to carry their own insurance to cover any possible damages they may cause while they perform tows. Since the city does not own, operate or insure the tow company, it is not responsible for any damages caused by the towing process and will not make payment for any alleged damage to your vehicle, or handle your claim for you. If you believe your vehicle was damaged during the tow, contact the company that towed your vehicle. You can find out who towed your vehicle by calling the Saint Paul Impound Lot at 651-266-5642. They will need your license plate number and will be able to provide you with the name and telephone number of the tow company.

 

Property Damage FAQs

Q:  My car was damaged by a snow plow.  What do I need to do to get it fixed?

A:  If you believe your car was damaged by a City of Saint Paul snow plow, please call the Street Maintenance Division at 651-266-9700 to report the damage.  A supervisor will review the reported damage.
You must complete and return a 
Notice of Claim form as required by Minnesota statutes.  The form is available online, in person from Room 310 of the Saint Paul City Hall, or by telephone request to the City Clerk's office at 651-266-8688. Generally speaking, you will need to provide two estimates for the repairs to your vehicle and possibly supply photographs of the damage. 

Q. My car was damaged during the towing. Who do I talk to to get it fixed?

A. ​The city contracts with private towing companies who are required to carry their own insurance to cover any possible damages they may cause while they perform tows. Since the city does not own, operate or insure the tow company, it is not responsible for any damages caused by the towing process and will not make payment for any alleged damage to your vehicle, or handle your claim for you. If you believe your vehicle was damaged during the tow, contact the company that towed your vehicle. You can find out who towed your vehicle by calling the Saint Paul Impound Lot at 651-266-5642. They will need your license plate number and will be able to provide you with the name and telephone number of the tow company.