Why cities are struggling to clear snow from side streets

The February snowfall has been keeping MnDOT crews busy as they work to clear the main roads. But, local side streets, which lie in the hands of the city or county crews, have really taken a hit.  

Side streets are usually the last to be treated after a significant snowfall. It makes sense because you need to clear the main roads first. However, since we've been hit with round after round of snow, crews are struggling to keep up.

“We treat every snow event as its own. We don’t have a set time, we don’t always come in at 3; it changes with every storm,” said Chris Link, Superintendent for the City of Richfield. 

After two inches of snow, all streets must be cleared, and even sidewalks get attention. Hoping to catch a break on Sunday, Link quickly realized he needed his entire department in when the snow just wouldn't stop.

“Once we got to two, we said, ‘oh boy, we better call everybody in and get ready to plow the whole city,’” he said.

Bigger cities like St. Paul tackle their main roads first, and only when a snow emergency is declared do they send plows to residential streets. The city is expected to call an emergency with Tuesday's storm.

Across the river in Minneapolis, the Public Works Department used the break in action Monday to go back and treat side streets.

“We are out there plowing the streets at all times whether or not we call a snow emergency. We want to keep our streets as clear as possible,” said Robin Hutcheson, Director of Minneapolis Public Works.

Hutcheson said they’ve been working 12 hour shifts, and they're trying to make sure everyone has enough rest in between storms.

If you find yourself on an unplowed street, maybe you'll be lucky to run into Stefon Lovelace, who's going door to door offering to shovel sidewalks and cars out.

“Somebody could be stuck out here. I’ve been stuck, and I wouldn’t want someone else to leave you stranded,” he said.

Every community has their own guidelines when it comes to plowing and how long they wait for the snow to fall before hitting the streets.

As far as salt and sand supply, everyone is in good shape for now, but if we keep having snow and ice they could eat up a lot more and start to get concerned.