Drivers cited, fined for parking in priority snow routes

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COLUMBIA - Some Columbia residents awoke to not just white on their cars Monday morning, but red, orange and yellow.

Columbia Department of Public Works issued dozens of the brightly-colored citations Sunday night and into Monday afternoon to cars parked in priority snow routes. City ordinance mandates that parked cars on the high traffic streets must be moved when more than 2 inches of snow falls.

KOMU 8 Weathercaster Kenton Gewecke said Columbia had reached 4 inches of snow by mid-day Monday. He estimated Columbia likely passed the 2-inch mark before midnight Sunday.

East campus resident Lucy Mulvihill said her roommate broke the news she'd received a ticket. She said she parked her car outside her home on South William Street before the snow started falling Sunday.

"I had no idea," she said. "I knew it was going to snow. I wouldn't have parked here if I'd known I was going to get a huge ticket."

The snow priority routes are marked with signs, but Columbia Public Works spokesperson Steve Sapp said two issues lead to confusion: high-turnover of tenants and tenants not knowing where to move cars to once the snow starts falling.

"A lot of people ask us, ‘what do we do with our vehicles?,'" Sapp said. "I don't know that I have an answer for everyone individually, but it's trying to work with neighbors and others to try and find spaces in drive ways and parking lots."

Sapp said he understands the frustration felt by residents caught off guard, but the priority routes have proven too helpful to crews for him to forsee any changes to the law. Sapp said Public Works used social media to get the word out, not only about the parking rules, but also other snow related concerns.

Mulvihill said, "I'm really annoyed, kind of angry. I don't know. I'm just really irritated. I don't know where they expect me to go."

Sapp said crews issued 74 citations from 10 p.m. Sunday night into Monday morning. The storm was the first in which Public Works issued citations in 2015. Crews towed only 12 of the ticketed vehicles.

Columbia has about 200 miles of priority snow routes. Sapp said the faster the priority routes are treated the faster crews can move into residential neighborhoods.

"We don't like to put citations on cars. We don't like to tow cars if we don't have to, but the simple fact of the matter is we know it improves our efficiency."

The citation is for $100. Drivers whose vehicles are towed are subject to additional charges for towing and storage.