Minneapolis was hit with 15 inches of snow over the course of a few days in the first week of January. In mid-January, city and county crews are still clearing the mess. Minneapolis is currently “posting and plowing” streets based on 311 requests and emergency vehicle access.

We asked our readers what questions they had about snow removal and passed those questions along to the City and Hennepin County.

Major takeaways:

- City leaders encourage you to call 311 or report snow and ice clearance issues to the online Sidewalk Snow and Ice Complaint form.

- All property owners are required to shovel down to the bare pavement. If this cannot be achieved, the City suggests putting sand down on the sidewalks until the snow melts enough to move. The City has free sand/salt mix available at multiple locations, available 24/7, including at 6036 Harriet Ave.

- If the relevant property owner cannot clear snow piled up from a plow at a street corner, the City or County will come back and clear the corner.

- Public Works is clearing snow with “a particular focus on areas of concern from Public Safety as well as 311 feedback.” Per a public email sent from Public Works, crews were on all residential streets a minimum of three times each after the big January storm.

A picture of an unshoveled sidewalk in front of a business submitted by a reader last week.

Here are your questions answered by the City and/or County, depending on the question. Information from the City was collected from public information, sent to us by the City. Hennepin County answered our questions directly.

Who is responsible for clearing corners where plows have compacted snow and ice after homeowners/business owners have already cleared to the curb? If so, is there a timeframe? What order of streets do they go in?

City of Minneapolis:  If the property owners cannot clear it safely, the city crews will do it “as soon as possible.” As of January 13, the Public Works Department said crews were finished with the city-wide corner clearing.  According to Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher, city workers are clearing snow with “a particular focus on areas of concern” with Public Safety needs, such as fire truck accessibility,  and 311 reports. “Public Works crews have been on all residential streets a minimum of three times each,” Anderson Kelliher said.

Hennepin County: When it comes to sidewalks and crossings, we take great care in making sure we leave them as clear as possible. That’s one reason why we create windrows in the roadway or on boulevards. At an intersection, we slow down our vehicles to limit the residual snow that might get left behind and make crossing difficult. If a city wants some help clearing an area after we have made a pass, we’ll come by and take another pass. We have also partnered with cities to assist in their overall snow removal efforts, like hauling out snow. If people want to learn more about the process we take, we encourage them to visit our webpage about snow and ice control.

What is the expectation around carriage walks (piece connecting the city sidewalk to the street)? Are they required to be cleared just like the rest of the sidewalk (I did clear mine but most of my neighbors didn’t).

City of Minneapolis: The carriage walks are the responsibility of the property owners on that corner. City inspectors go out and inspect sidewalks 24 hours after a snowfall. The City also suggests contacting 311 to report unshoveled walks and carriages/street corners.

How far into the street are property owners required to shovel when plows create multiple foot wide and high piles like this?If it’s in the street, is it up to the City/County to come clear?

If you live on a corner, clear curb cutouts at the street corners and crosswalks to the street gutter. If it’s beyond the gutter, it’s the City or County’s responsibility to clear.

When a property is reported to 311 and issued a warning, how long do they have to clear the snow before the City will do it and charge?

City of Minneapolis: They have 24 hours to clear the snow. Per the City ordinance, “The city engineer is authorized to remove any snow or ice remaining on the public sidewalks of the city more than 24 hours after” the snow fall stopped.

What are the consequences for businesses that don’t clear snow from sidewalks? Is it the same as for individual homeowners?

City of Minneapolis: There are steeper consequences for business owners and people with property that are bigger than a single-family house or duplex.

Per the City ordinance, businesses and apartment complexes that do clear snow and ice within four hours during daytime hours (8 a.m. - 5 p.m.) after the snow stops falling will be guilty of a petty misdemeanor, and every hour after those four hours “shall be deemed to be a separate violation.” Additionally, property owners that fail to comply with keeping their non-street parking areas and sidewalks clear of snow and ice “shall be grounds for the revocation of the license or permit of the person” violating the City code.

Does the City/County do quality control regarding plowing across neighborhoods? For example, after an abandoned vehicle is finally towed, does the City/County have a plan to move the snow from that space?

City of Minneapolis: According to Public Works, streets are being re-plowed based on Public Safety needs and 311 reports. In this case, a 311 report would be suggested to let the City know that the street needs to be plowed again.

For what it’s worth, the “post and plow” process that is currently happening is described by City Council Vice President Linea Palmisano as “a long process.”  And per a recent press release, “The City urges people to work with neighbors to move vehicles that have been parked in the same location since the last snow event. The City also recommends residents contact 311 to report concerns about conditions on streets and sidewalks.”

Hennepin County: The county has quality control measures in place for plowing. We have dedicated routes covering all county roads overnight and during the day. Then, we have additional crews working in the afternoon and evening. These crews monitor any changes in conditions and then address whatever issues they see - like plowing issues or areas that need de-icing or anti-icing materials.

In Minneapolis, we plow our county roads at slower speeds to minimize mounds, or “windrows,” but that can be challenging with snow accumulations like we’ve seen in the last few weeks.

For removing snow mounds on county roads in Minneapolis, we coordinate with the City of Minneapolis to get no parking signs on county roads installed 48 hours in advance. This coordination is a separate process from the snow emergencies declared by the city. Once the vehicles are moved, we go in and clear the mounds. we work in several block increments to be efficient. Typically, we work 8-10 blocks at a time. If there are vehicles even after the signs are installed, we work with the city to address them, as the county does not have jurisdiction over towing vehicles.

A construction vehicle drives down Lyndale Avenue on January 4 on its way to clear snow. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

How does the City/County intend to manage the next snowfall, taking into account the way streets are narrowed by the current amount of snow remaining on streets?

City of Minneapolis: No answer

Hennepin County:  We’ve been proactive, but this process will take time. First, when the snow falls, our approach will remain the same – clear all our county roads and make the travel lanes passable and leave conditions the best we can so the city can address other areas like bike lanes. Then, when there’s a break in between snow events like now, some of our crews who plow our routes shift to removing mounds in areas like bridges, guardrails and intersections first where there are increased safety risks for people traveling. Once we address those areas, our crews transition to removing mounds in areas with on-street parking. We plan to work on removing mounds throughout the county for the next several weeks, including Minneapolis, and will be ready to manage the next snowfall

What’s up with 25th Street in the Wedge? Not even an attempt at towing or plowing that I can observe. Does the City just not plow some streets?

Our best guess, based on what Palmisano shared with her constituents, vehicles that could not or were not moved made it impossible for plows to get down the streets. Given the Wedge’s narrow streets, this is likely to have happened.

According to Palmisano, “We have been working on some very narrow corridors in a ‘post and plow’ mode- this means posting no parking in certain areas, giving vehicles time to move, then citing/towing if necessary and going in to widen the roadway. It is a long process that is especially difficult in some areas.”

Why won't the City call for one-sided parking?

The City has not called for city-wide one-sided parking but crews are out doing what Palmisano referred to as “post and plow” on some streets. City workers have posted one-sided parking and plowed some of “our most challenging areas,” according to Public Works.

“We are in close contact with the Fire team to prioritize key areas and will continue to strategically post one sided parking in those locations as needed,” Kelliher Anderson said.

You are not alone in asking this question. Palmisano’s office received “enormous amounts of feedback” from residents asking the City to institute a one-sided parking restriction across the city to open up more space on residential streets. For what it’s worth, one-sided parking was previously required by law to stay in place until April 1. This law has changed and one-sided parking can be implemented on a more temporary basis now.

What factors determine whether a car that is not following snow emergency rules actually gets towed so the street can be cleared?

City of Minneapolis: The availability of tow truck drivers and the ability for the tow truck to access the vehicle.

Hennepin County: The City of Minneapolis makes those determinations, as they oversee the towing of vehicles, including on county roads.

A sunny, snow-filled street captured on January 5. Photo by Melody Hoffmann

We have a neighbor who directs their snow thrower toward the residential street (and not onto their yard area, for example). We’re under the impression that throwing the snow into the street is at least discouraged, yes? And, if so, where may we direct them as to city code / ordinance?

City of Minneapolis: You can direct your neighbor to the City’s sidewalk clearing rules webpage where it states, “shovel snow into your yard or boulevard. It’s against the law to shovel snow into streets or alleys.”

As a homeowner on the 4000 block off the new 40th St bikeway, please explain how ped crossings will get cleared at the bikeway snow windrow (between the bikeway and the street).

City of Minneapolis: The City crews were on a 10-day snow emergency clearing plan and all crosswalks should be clear now. City leaders encourage people to report areas that need snow and ice clearance to contact 311 or fill out the online report form.

How many days after a storm does the city start clearing pedestrian crosswalks like this untouched one at 34th and Blaisdell?

City of Minneapolis: The City crews were on a 10-day snow emergency clearing plan and all crosswalks should be clear now. City leaders encourage people to report areas that need snow and ice clearance to contact 311 or fill out the online report form.

A picture of an unshoveled pedestrian median on Blaisdell submitted by a reader last week.

What about clearance of bus lanes? Who is responsible for that? The buses have been stuck in traffic on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown because the lanes haven't been sufficiently cleared.

The City is responsible for clearing City streets and the County is responsible for cleaning County streets, bus lanes included.  We hope that Hennepin Avenue is on the “post and plow” schedule.

Hennepin County: Our operators are careful when plowing bus lanes, especially where there are bus stops and shelters, not to push snow onto them.

Photos from a Hennepin Avenue bus stop submitted by a reader last week.

Can you explain what the County's role and responsibilities are in snow removal after a storm and how that role is different from what the City does?

Hennepin County: The county’s responsibility is to remove snow from our county roads. For many, it may not be obvious what a county road is, especially in Minneapolis where they all are typically referenced by their local names. On the ground they are denoted by blue pentagram signs. These are some of the bigger, well-known roads, but even so it may not be the entire length of a road – like we manage snow removal on 50th Street (County Road 21) but only between Lyndale and France avenues. For anyone who wants to understand this better, we have a map online at County Roads in Hennepin County (arcgis.com). (Hennepin County)

How would you respond to people who say that the snow removal after the January winter storm was poorly executed with lingering issues? Is this accurate to the workers who plowed the streets?

City of Minneapolis: No answer

Hennepin County: Our county snowplow operators have worked very hard these last three weeks, including during the holidays. Some even changed their plans and canceled days off to do their part. We’ve experienced all types of winter weather, including significant snowfall, high winds, ice and well-below-freezing temperatures.

Even with these challenges, our crews worked around the clock to ensure travel lanes on county roads were passable and left conditions the best way we could so our city and agency partners throughout the county could address areas like bike lanes, sidewalks and trails.

We never give up on the challenge of clearing snow and managing ice on county roads. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.

One of the best ways people can help is make sure their cars are not in the way and give us space when we are plowing or cleaning up an area. Cleanup is often a time-intensive effort that includes multiple vehicles.