Duluth Developing New Snow Emergency Protocols

Baihly Warfield
Updated: October 24, 2019 10:48 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - In Jim Benning's 12 years as Director of the Public Works Department, he's never declared a snow emergency. But it's not because the city hasn't had one.

"The ordinance as written now refers to the (snow emergency) routes, and the routes are determined by signage. The signs don't even exist," Benning said. 

The city heard from plenty of citizens about its handling of snow removal last winter, so several departments spent the spring and summer preparing to make over the snow policy. 

"As councilors, particularly after last winter, we were hearing constantly from people," Councilor Joel Sipress said, "and it's great to see our city and our staff be so responsive to a big public concern."

Administration presented its updated plan, which includes formal snow emergencies, to the City Council Thursday night. The council is expected to vote on it Nov. 11. 

It will involve installing 2,800 new "Snow Emergency Route" signs on 120 miles of city streets. Benning said the goal is for each neighborhood to have at least one main route to get to the center of the city.

Because it will take months to install that many signs, the new policy won't go into effect until the winter of 2020-21. 

"You can't tell people not to park where they don't know where they can't park," Benning explained. 

Here is the proposed schedule for a snow emergency declaration:

  • 4 p.m. - Deadline for the Public Works Director to declare a snow emergency
  • 4-9 p.m. - Drivers can move their cars from snow emergency routes
  • 9 p.m.-2 a.m. - Police and Parking Services will ticket or tow vehicles that have not been moved
  • 2 a.m.-6 p.m. - Plows will clear the snow emergency routes

Once a route is cleared, people can park on that street again. They do not have to wait until 6 p.m. to move back. 

This winter, the city's focus will be on making sure sidewalks are clear and property owners know the rules about removing snow and ice within 24 hours of a weather event. Benning said it will be "heavy on education, light on enforcement" this winter. 

The city has a Winter Watch website where you can submit streets that need to be plowed and find other weather-related information. 


Baihly Warfield

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