COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Over the weekend, leaders in Sandpoint asked residents to move cars buried in snow from the odd-address side of the street as street crews began to do work on priority routes. 

“Vehicles that are buried and have clearly not been moved for several days may be towed on Tuesday,” the city wrote online, noting that buried cars pose a safety risk.

 It wasn’t clear if any action was taken on Tuesday, though. Both a city spokesperson and Sandpoint Police did not respond to emails asking if vehicles would be towed or were in the process of being removed.

In Coeur d’Alene, police announced that officers would start tagging vehicles surrounded by snow berms on Tuesday night before towing them on Friday. The announcement appeared to be an uncommon one in the Lake City, though. A police spokesman told KREM that instances of problem vehicles being towed to assist with snow removal was “very rare.” 

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The city’s streets director, Tim Martin, said that during previous years his crews have removed snow berms so that problem cars could be towed. Martin added that his department only looks for vehicles which pose serious safety issues. Traditionally, vehicles are given a 24 hour notice to move, he said.

“We want to reach out and encourage compliance,” said Jay Wilhelm of Coeur d’Alene Police. “Narrowing streets and 'snow berms' have become an issue this winter and is of obvious concern to us. We desperately need assistance from our citizens due to the inconvenience and possible safety risks. Our primary concern and our initial efforts though, will be centered around cooperation and compliance."

Leaders in Post Falls also said that it’s rare to tow vehicles relating to snow removal. The city’s public works director, John Beacham, told KREM that city code allows abandoned cars to be towed. Regarding snow events, though, the city tries to take a “friendly” approach, he said. Staff with Post Falls police added that towing cars due to plow operations was very rare.

In Spokane Valley, snowed-in cars or cars on major plow routes are normally not towed. A city spokesperson told KREM that the city doesn’t have a policy relating to towing cars during snow events. Plow drivers instead simply push snow around vehicles. The city does ask residents to move their cars from the street if possible, though. A spokesman said that the city didn’t have a towing policy because streets in Spokane Valley tend to be wide enough to allow normal snow plow operations.

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The same can’t be said in Spokane proper, though.

The city has traditionally towed cars on certain snow routes during major snow events. Notably, cars are prohibited from parking on downtown streets during snow events from midnight to 6 a.m. Cars have traditionally been towed from Browne’s Addition due to the narrowness of streets in the neighborhood. A city spokesperson didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on how often the city ultimately ends up towing vehicles.

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