12/26/2013 03:43 EST | Updated 02/25/2014 05:59 EST

Snowplows, tow trucks hit the streets after Christmas break

Snowplows are back in action on Montreal streets today after a short break over Christmas, and illegally parked cars are posing a major problem to snow removal crews.

Street and sidewalk plows started up around 7 a.m. ET Thursday, and 3,000 city employees are working to clean up the remnants of last weekend’s winter storm.

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City of Montreal spokesman Jacques-Alain Lavallée said that 35 per cent of Montreal’s 10,000 kilometres of sidewalks and roads were plowed, and that another 15 per cent was expected to be cleared today.

He said the freezing rain that fell on top of the snow on Sunday made the snow exceptionally heavy, which is slowing crews down.

Also slowing crews down are the number of cars poorly parked on streets marked for plowing, Lavallée said.

“Since the last storm between Dec. 15 and 20, we towed 5,000 vehicles,” he said, adding that each towing requires plow operators to stop their machines for at least 10 minutes at a time.

That's why Insp. André Durocher of the Montreal police is asking vehicle owners to be mindful of parking regulations.

"We know it's not easy, we're understanding, we know that people can't be parked exactly the way they would be parked in the summer," Durocher said.

"However, with that being said, we have to consider there's a major safety reason. Ambulances have to pass, fire trucks have to pass as well," he continued.

Simon Verheyden, a tow truck driver for a private contractor employed by the city, said many people with cars parked on streets marked for plowing often wait for their cars to get dug out by people like him before claiming them.

"As soon as we touch the car and we lift it up, then they're going to get a ticket. Otherwise they don't get it. As long as the car remains in the same spot, they don't get [a] ticket," Verheyden said.

Lavallée of the city said several thousand free parking spaces were opened up to help people park their cars during snow removal operations.

For a list of free parking spots, click here.