Digging out: The day after, towing disparities, long week ahead

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WCCO reports that it could take a week to get back to normal after a snowstorm that led state troopers to call road conditions "the worst they'd seen in 25 years."

No travel is advised through the weekend.

I-94 around the Twin Cities resembled a parking lot most of Friday and Friday night, because a stubborn layer of ice beneath the snow kept big trucks from getting traction, and led to many spinouts.

Kevin Gutknecht, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, called for patience. "It's going to take some time," he said. "The temperature is not ideal for using salt."

KARE 11 and others forecast temperatures well below normal this coming week, with lows in the double digits below zero by Thursday.

The Forum News Service reports 14 inches of snow fell in Duluth, and 18 inches in northwest Wisconsin. The storm brought hundreds of stranded travelers to county-run shelters and led to at least one fatal accident in Wabasha County. Excel Energy said 14,000 metro area residents were without power for part of Friday.

Governor Dayton called on the National Guard to help stranded motorists.

Complaints from a North Minneapolis woman driving to Edina triggered an investigation into unfair towing practices in Minneapolis. The Star Tribune obtained data from a Jan. 30 snow emergency, which showed tickets and tows plentiful in Dinkytown and North Minneapolis, but scarce in southwest Minneapolis.

“That shouldn’t be,” said Council Member Kevin Reich, who chairs the city’s transportation and public works committee.

The new city council member from southwest Minneapolis. Linea Palmisano said she has been surprised by the “volume of people calling for us to ticket and tow more frequently.”

Mike Kennedy, the city’s transportation maintenance director, said the towing contractor, Rapid Recovery, was not doing much in South Minneapolis because of a misunderstanding with a city supervisor.

Rapid Recovery’s General Manager Pete Olson said his employees only tow cars that have been tagged. “If there’s not cars that are tagged then we’re not going to tow them,” he said.

The city now says it will crack down on contractor enforcement so that residents realize if they don't obey parking rules during show emergencies, "it's a gamble" and not a system they can game.

Kennedy said the city does need to prioritize hard-to-navigate areas like those near the university. In all, the city towed 1,200-plus vehicles during the snow emergency.

“If we don’t go there every time and very aggressively enforce, we’ll never get the streets plowed,” Kennedy said.

Reich said he wants to see stiffer penalties for contractor noncompliance when the towing contracts are opened for bids later this year.

The Star Tribune created a map that shows who gets towed, here.

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