Why Didn't the City of Boston Declare a Snow Emergency?

A spokesperson from the office of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said snowfall Friday exceeded estimates from the night before; despite the lack of a formal snow emergency, residents who shoveled out parking spots brought out the space savers

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Despite a foot of snow, the City of Boston did not declare a snow emergency Friday.

That came as a surprise to residents, who expressed relief they did not have to worry about moving their cars off the main roadways or risk being ticketed and towed. But it also led to a little confusion about claiming parking spots with space savers.

When asked about the decision not to declare a snow emergency, a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu said the initial estimate was for the storm to bring six to eight inches of accumulation. Generally, the city calls a snow emergency if the forecast calls for at least 10 inches.

"A snow emergency must also be declared with enough time for parking garages and residents to prepare for parking restrictions that begin with a snow emergency," the spokesperson wrote via email, while noting the city ramped up its response to more than 700 pieces of snow removal equipment on the roads.

According to the rules, space savers are only allowed if a snow emergency is declared. They need to be removed within 48 hours after the emergency ends.

But out on the streets, residents operated by a different set of rules. South Boston roadways displayed an array of lawn chairs, buckets and a portable toilet.

NBC10 Boston/Ryan Kath
A toilet serving as a space saver after snowfall in Boston

"You don't tell Southie residents that, because they don't care," one driver laughed. "If you take someone's parking spot, you might wake up in the morning with a flat tire."

In other parts of the city, and even in the South End — where space savers are banned — dug-out spaces were claimed with cardboard boxes and cones.

At 80 years old, lifelong Bostonian Mary Lynch said she's earned the right to dig out and claim her spot.

"I'll use a couple of orange cones," Lynch said. "We used to be able to save it forever. We'd save it all winter … it was great!"

NBC10 Boston asked Wu's office if the city is making a space saver exception, since snow totals surpassed expectations, and has not received a definitive answer.

It's clear plenty of residents are not waiting for the clarification.

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