Costly Christmas snow


While many of us are happily dreaming of a white Christmas – up to 20 inches of snow predicted across Minnesota over the next few days – for the people who keep our pavement clear it’s more of a nightmare. It won’t be much of a holiday for hundreds of plow drivers plying streets, highways and airport runways. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport even has bunk beds ready for crews to catch a bit of sleep between plowing runs. 

The burden of necessary snow removal falls on the public, too. Some public agencies will pay as much as double-time-and-a-half for Christmas Day duty. An average snow emergency costs Minneapolis and St. Paul alone a combined $1 million, with holiday overtime typically adding another $500,000. And St. Paul has already exhausted its budget for four snow emergencies in calendar 2009, although despite continued state cuts, officials there promise to find the resources to do the job regardless.

Mobility can’t wait for the regular workweek to resume, even though snow removal budgets have been cut across Minnesota in the face of declining state aid. Ordinary people can help ease the fiscal squeeze by obeying snow emergency parking rules – usually available on city web sites – and reminding out-of-town visitors to keep their cars out of the way of the plows, too. If not, you will get towed, even on Christmas Day.

The National Weather Service is discouraging all travel during the storm except in an emergency. “If you must,” the weather service says, “keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle.” Extra care behind the wheel is in order as well, as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials reminds us in this fun video clip.

So, have a merry, white Christmas, but don’t hurry down the highway tonight.