At 9:30 p.m. Friday, she parked her 2005 Buick LaCrosse on Michigan Street and ducked into her apartment at Robertson's Apartments for the night.
“That was the first time I parked on the street,” said Hughes, who moved to South Bend two months ago and normally stashes her car in a downtown garage.
She noticed a small paper sign on the street about not parking but thought it was just for a couple of parking spots. She also heard a TV news report about parking restrictions but didn't realize it was for all of Michigan Street in downtown.
Everything was abundantly clear 12 hours later as she left for work as manager of the Washington Dunbar Homes on the west side.
Her car was gone. All cars were gone from the street, replaced by giant heaps of snow. Tractors and dump trucks were scooping and removing as much as they could on Michigan and Lafayette Boulevard.
The city had sent out word Friday midafternoon and began work in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
It came as an irritation to motorists in bottleneck traffic and as a relief to downtown shop owners who said goodbye to the snow.
Hughes flagged down one of the plow drivers, who told her to call police.
Hitching a ride with a maintenance worker for the apartments, she went to Patti's Towing and paid $50 so they would open her car. Normally, that's free if you're there during business hours, said Patti Scott, owner, who typically opens for a couple of hours early on Saturdays after snow emergencies.
Hughes was a bit late for that. She plucked the registration and insurance card out of her car so that she could go to the South Bend police station. The police gave her a “release” so that Patti's could release her car.
Once back at Patti's, Hughes said, she paid cash for an itemized list of fees for processing, storage, labor and so on. There's a standard fee for everything, and it's all posted in the office, Scott said.
Total for Hughes: $245.
She said police charged her $10, too.
That zapped the money - and her plans - to join friends for a Super Bowl party in Chicago.
Hughes' car may have been among a handful that were towed for snow removal.
After last week's blizzard, police in South Bend and Mishawaka have been slapping “red tags” on cars on residential streets, giving the owners 72 hours to move the cars so streets can be plowed.
Scott said South Bend police have also been calling on Patti's to immediately tow cars - red tag or not - that are blocking traffic in the streets.
The cars are parked far from the curbs because of the snow, she said. One of her drivers had to skip six different streets in a half-hour's time on the city's northwest side, near Riverside Drive, because his tow truck couldn't squeeze through the parked cars. (Need an ambulance or firetruck to come to your house?)
The towed cars may be a pain, but Scott said, “It's for everyone's benefit.”
Staff writer Joseph Dits: