Snow Emergency FAQs

Q: What is a Snow Emergency?

A: A Snow Emergency is typically declared after snowfalls of 3” or more, or after an accumulation of 3” or more from several snowfalls. When a Snow Emergency is declared, which officially goes into effect at 9 p.m., residents must move vehicles and follow specific parking guidelines to allow for efficient snow plowing operations. Vehicles in violation of parking restrictions are ticketed and towed.

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.

  • Download the "Saint Paul Winter Snow Parking" App from the Apple or Google Play stores.
  • Call the Snow Plowing Hotline at 651-266-PLOW (7569) for a recorded message
  • Like and follow the City of Saint Paul on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cityofsaintpaul
  • Follow the City of Saint Paul on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cityofsaintpaul
  • Follow Saint Paul Public Works on Twitter at www.twitter.com/stpaulpublicw
  • Tune in to local media television and radio stations, as well as print publications, such as the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune.

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
  • Activates the Snow Emergency alert on the Winter Snow Parking App.
  • 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

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 typically 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 $600,000 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 or download our free "Saint Paul Winter Snow Parking" app from the Apple or Google Play stores.

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.