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City starts cracking down on 'snowbird' vehicles

The city of Willmar has begun towing snowed-in vehi-cles like this one on a residential block on the eastside of town. This vehicle is one of 34 that have been tagged by the city since Monday's snowstorm. City ordinances prohibit vehicles from being left curbside for more than 48 hours without being moved. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- If your vehicle is still parked at the curb in the middle of a snowbank, you're running out of time.

The Willmar Police Department is cracking down on car owners who haven't moved their vehicles since Monday's major snowstorm.

"We've tagged 34 and hooked six so far," Willmar Police Chief Jim Kulset said Friday.

City ordinances prohibit vehicles from being left curbside for more than 48 hours without being moved.

The ordinance applies all year. It's especially important to enforce it in winter, however, so that streets can be completely plowed, Kulset said.

"We want to get those cars off the street so we can plow curb to curb. A lot of those streets are becoming very narrow," he said.

A handful of sideswipe accidents have taken place this past week. One involved a snowplow that scraped a parked car. In another incident, a school bus sideswiped a vehicle parked at the curb.

It's especially difficult for large vehicles such as plows and fire trucks to navigate snowy streets that have been narrowed by this week's snowfall, Kulset said.

"It's always bad when we have sustained snowfall like that," he said.

Police officers are leaving tickets and placards on vehicles that haven't been moved yet. The registered owner is usually given at least four hours, and often up to 24 hours, to move the vehicle.

"Usually it's the next day so it gives people who come home from work a chance to see that green placard," Kulset said.

If the vehicle still hasn't been moved, it's going to be towed to the city impound lot.

Owners can expect to be charged a towing fee of $100, plus pay a $20 penalty. If they don't claim their vehicle within two days, they'll also start being charged a $10 impound fee per day.

"The message is, if you have a vehicle that has been parked on the street longer than 48 hours, move it. That's year-round," Kulset said.

He also urged motorists to be careful at intersections where high snowbanks have blocked a view of oncoming traffic.

City crews are working to remove snowbanks, but it may take some time before they reach every intersection. In the meantime, motorists are urged to use caution before turning or pulling into an intersection.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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