As a Minnesotan I’m not at all unfamiliar with the term Snow Emergency, but unfortunately when I hear the word ’emergency’ it doesn’t immediately cause a sense of urgency and alertness as one would expect it to. A snow emergency is defined as an active response plan due to a snowstorm impacting a city, which includes temporarily barring on-street parking, closing roads, and other factors that can vary from each issuing area.

Before we go any further here, I want to give everyone a history lesson.

On May 3rd, 1999, an outbreak of tornadoes in Oklahoma spawned an F5 (now would be considered an EF-5) tornado heading towards the highly populated suburbs of Oklahoma City. Trained meteorologists knew a lot of people had shrugged off the tornado warning they had seen on tv and heard on radio simply because the warnings are nothing uncommon and usually lead to possibly some hail and a tornado that lands in a field and injures no one. Knowing this, the meteorologists knew they had to use some sort of language that would grab the attention to the general population, and thus, the first ever ‘tornado emergency’ was issued, and probably saved countless lives as one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded ripped through the city.

From here I just want to stress the term ‘snow emergency’ should only be used in ACTUAL emergencies, and not as a reminder for people to park on a certain side of the street so the plows can come in. For the record, the concept behind it is obviously for good reason, but maybe call it a ‘snow ordinance’ instead.