Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Road salt in short supply

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In some Tristate communities, they're calling road salt white gold these days. Many are running out of salt for treating icy roads and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of salt-laden barges from the Bahamas and Louisiana.

Most Tristate schools were closed Monday, and some busy roads were treacherous during the morning commute, both due, in part, to low salt supplies.

Some Tristate crews have resorted to rationing road salt. Butler County was getting down to its final grains Monday after a morning snow forced the county to use up virtually all of its remaining 400 tons.

Closings & delays
Weather forecast, radar
Traffic conditions
Butler has spread more than twice the amount of salt on its roads this winter than it does in an average winter. So far, Butler has used 8,221 tons of salt, 4,521 more than the average winter.

Cincinnati had 3,500 tons of salt left after using 38,000 tons. Hamilton County has treated roads with 20,000 tons of salt this winter and has 2,000 tons left.

"It's been a winter that just doesn't quit," said Steve Mary, Hamilton County maintenance engineer.

Boone County has only 100 tons of a salt-and-sand mix, but is expecting to receive 100 tons today. Warren County has 500 tonsof salt, and Clermont County, 300 tons.

Morton Salt barges are due in Cincinnati on Wednesday. But if the river is high, the barges won't be able to dock and unload their cargo, said Joe Wojtonik, spokesman for Morton Salt in Chicago.

Cincinnati has sent its snow-removal crews on the roads 39 times in the past 55 days. Last winter, the crews went out only seven times, said Diana Frey, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Department of Public Services.

Most communities expecting salt shipments Wednesday say that should be enough for the rest of the winter. But some aren't so sure.

"Spring may be around the corner," Frey said. "But I've been at Reds' Opening Day parades when I've had to wipe snow off the windshield."

Marie McCain, Jim Hannah and Chris Mayhew contributed. E-mail skemme@enquirer.com

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