HELENA — With the first substantial snow of the year in Helena, city trucks are back on the streets to deal with snow and ice.
Helena leaders say they have had drivers out since 4 a.m. Saturday dealing with the storm. Trucks were out to plow in residential areas and put down sand on hills and in intersections.
It came as a sudden reminder that winter is on the way.
“I think it caught everybody a little bit off-guard,” said David Knoepke, the city’s director of transportation systems. “Everybody needs to find their ice scrapers and their winter gloves.”
With more storms in the forecast, the city is reminding drivers not to park on streets designated as “emergency snow routes” – like Helena Avenue, 6th Avenue and Rodney Street. When more than two inches of snow are expected, vehicles are not allowed to park along those routes between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Knoepke said the city generally doesn’t enforce snow route rules very strictly for the first storm of the year, but going forward, vehicles may be towed from those areas.
“If there’s two or more inches of snow forecasted, get your vehicles off, at least until it’s been plowed,” he said.
Property owners also need to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours of the snow stopping. Because Helena got snow on and off throughout the weekend, the city reset their “countdown clock” several times.
“The big thing about the sidewalks is it’s not just yourself trying to get out to your mailbox,” Knoepke said. “Think of the other folks that use the sidewalks, especially the disabled community that has a tougher time getting around in the snow.”
After 24 hours, the city will accept reports of violations on the MyHelena app (https://helenamt.citysourced.com/). They have dedicated code enforcement staff who will investigate the complaints.
Knoepke said, so far, most of the complaints have not been because of uncleared snow and ice, but because of broken branches blocking sidewalks.
“There was a lot of water content to it,” he said. “It was the typical Montana first snow.”
Some of the city’s snow rules haven’t taken effect yet. Starting Nov. 1, trailers, boats and recreational vehicles cannot be parked on any city street. Any of those vehicles left on the street after that time could be towed at the owner’s expense.
Knoepke said the city didn’t have to use its entire snow removal budget last winter, so they carried some of that money forward and are in relatively good financial shape for now.
You can find more information on Helena’s snow policies on the city website (https://www.helenamt.gov/know-the-code).