City of Muscatine Public Works Director Brian Stineman is the first to admit there is no perfect solution to on-street parking during a declared snow emergency.
“There are too many variables to consider when winter weather events approach that it is difficult to determine how soon and if a snow emergency should be declared,” Stineman said.
The best advice for Muscatine residents parking on the street is to know the snow emergency parking regulations and be prepared to act on them for any snow event of two inches or more. Even if a snow emergency is not declared, adhering to the established parking plan allows DPW crews to clear the streets quickly and safely.
City Code does not specify how much notification time is needed before the implementation of a snow emergency, but the general rule of thumb is four hours. And that is if the forecast comes to fruition.
Forecasting weather events is not an exact science and the patterns can change hourly.
“You can have a general idea of what is going to happen but the longer you wait the clearer picture you have as to whether a snow emergency is needed,” Stineman said. “On the other hand, the longer you wait the less notification time there is for the public before the onset of the declaration.”
The City of Muscatine declared a Snow Emergency in the final days of 2017 (December 29-31), the first Snow Emergency in two years as a winter storm took aim on Muscatine with an anticipated six-plus inches of snow followed by a frigid arctic air mass.
The decision was not made lightly and a lot of discussions were held in the previous 24 hours whether a snow emergency was needed.
“The forecast kept changing,” Gregg Mandsager, city administrator, said. “Originally we were only going to get two inches, then 3-to-5, then 4-to-6, and finally six-plus.”
The timing of the storm was another variable. Originally the storm was to move through Muscatine starting at 2 p.m. Friday and the decision was made to announce the snow emergency at 8 a.m. and implement it at noon. By 8:30 a.m., however, the snow was already falling.
“Once the determination was made, the announcement was sent out by email and posted on social media,” Kevin Jenison, communications manager for the City of Muscatine said. “The best way for the public to stay on top of breaking news from the city is to click on the Notify Me icon on the front page of the web site and complete the easy three-step process to begin receiving notifications.”
By 10 a.m., staff members from the City including administration, Department of Public Works, Muscatine Fire Department, and the Muscatine Police Department, were meeting to develop the game plan for the event. By noon, the snow emergency went into effect and snow was already piling up.
So what does a snow emergency really mean? Mostly, the declaration has to do with on-street parking and allowing snow removal to proceed at a quicker pace.
According to City Code, streets that normally allow parking on both sides of the street will be subject to “alternate side of the street” parking during a snow emergency. On odd-numbered days of the month, parking is permitted only on the odd-numbered side of the street. Likewise, parking is permitted only on the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered days.
For all streets where parking is allowed only on one side, if that side is on the even-numbered side of the street parking is allowed only on even-numbered days with no parking allowed on odd-numbered days. Likewise, if the one side is on the odd-numbered side of the street parking is allowed only on odd-numbered days with no parking allowed on even-numbered days.
The caveat is that for the Class 1 streets, those designated to be cleared first including snow ordinance routes, hospital access streets, school access routes, and transit emergency bus routes, the effort is to clear the entire street from curb to curb before proceeding to other streets.
“We have very good drivers and they do the best they can to work around parked cars,” Stineman said.
The transition time between the first and second day of a snow emergency is from 12-8 a.m. meaning that you will not be ticketed for parking on the wrong side of the street until after 8 a.m. on the second snow emergency day.
The downtown Central Business District (bounded by Mulberry, Third, Mississippi Drive, and Pine streets) are not affected by the snow emergency parking regulations. However, restrictions on parking are put in place following a significant snowfall where the accumulation must be removed from parking areas and sidewalks in the downtown area.
There are five emergency plow snow routes throughout the city which are cleared first according to DPW Street Maintenance Supervisor Randy Howell.
“We have a map with the emergency routes in different colors which just is a guide for our crews to know which route they need to clear,” Howell said.
For more information visit the Snow & Ice Removal page on the City of Muscatine web site. You can also call the Department of Public Works at 563-272-2506 for more information.
There are two other sections in City Code that deal with snow and ice removal.
Section 3-1-4 states that property owners are responsible for clearing natural accumulations of snow and ice from the sidewalks within 24 hours after the last snowfall. If the property owner does not clear the sidewalk in a reasonable time, the City will attempt to notify the property owner to remove the snow and ice. If the City clears the snow and ice, the property owner will be assessed the costs of removal.
Section 3-1-7 simply states that it is unlawful to throw, push or place any ice or snow from private property, sidewalks or driveways onto the streets.
Kevin Jenison, Communications Manager