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Published: Thursday, 1/27/2005

Winter doesn't threaten area salt stockpiles

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
 A city of Toledo truck is refilled with road salt from the salt pile on Water Street. Although northwest Ohio has had more snow and ice than average this season, Toledo officials report they have used only about a third of their 65,000-ton stockpile. A city of Toledo truck is refilled with road salt from the salt pile on Water Street. Although northwest Ohio has had more snow and ice than average this season, Toledo officials report they have used only about a third of their 65,000-ton stockpile.
MORRISON / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Four years ago, record December snowfall left Toledo-area communities scrambling to replenish their road salt supplies and created shortages that persisted into the following autumn's restocking season.

While the past five weeks have been even snowier than that December surprise, officials at the Ohio Department of Transportation, the city of Toledo, and several other area communities said they're nowhere close to exhausting their supplies.

So far, Toledo has used about a third of its 65,000-ton stockpile, said David Moebius, commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor.

The 26.6 inches of snow in January is the second-most on record for the month, and the season-to-date total, 37.1 inches, has topped the 36.6-inch average for entire winters.

The storms in the Toledo area have been relatively ice-free.

Bright sunshine Sunday that followed the 12-inch snowfall Saturday helped out, though temperatures were well below freezing, Mr. Moebius said.

"That was great," the streets commissioner said. "It allowed the salt and calcium chloride to work in and helped the [melting] process along."

Scott Davidson, the director of public services in Monroe, said expansion of the city's storage facility four years ago helped considerably. Monroe has spread about 1,000 tons so far this season - "about what we would use in a typical winter" - but has had no trouble replenishing its supply.

The stockpile now holds about 1,000 tons. Monroe used to have storage for only about 300 tons, Mr. Davidson said.

To the south, the storms have been icier, yet the salt story is similar.

Susan Kuhn, Tiffin's public works director, said the city has used about half its 1,400-ton salt pile, though 18 inches of snow fell there just before Christmas.

"We've used a little more than normal," said John Arnold, service director in Findlay, where street crews have spread an estimated 1,200 tons of salt so far. Salt prices were up about 3 percent when the city put in an order to replenish some of its supply, but Mr. Arnold said he considered the increase to be normal, and the stockpile should last a while.

Findlay was on the northern edge of an ice storm Jan. 5-6 that, along with knocking out power to thousands, presented the region's toughest road-clearing challenge so far.

Rhonda Pees, a spokesman for ODOT's district office in Lima, said the ice storm only accounts for about one-tenth of the 43,480 tons of salt that district crews had spread on state highways as of Tuesday, which, in turn, is about 5,000 tons more than during the same period of last winter.

"Our roads were in good shape," Ms. Pees said. "We had brine down, and it really took hold of the roads."

Pretreatment involves spraying a salt or calcium chloride solution on the pavement in dry weather. The solution dries, leaving a pattern of parallel white lines. When snow or other icy precipitation falls, the dried de-icer weakens the precipitation's ability to bond with the pavement, making removal easier.

Jeff Ballmer, Sylvania's service director, also credited brine pretreatment of roads for his city's moderate salt use so far this winter: about 1,100 tons.

Mr. Moebius said it hasn't hurt that two of this month's three major storms occurred on Saturdays, or that many people were on Christmas vacation during the Dec. 23 snowfall that delivered eight inches to Toledo.

"I don't know what a weekend means anymore, but that's a lucky thing from a cleaning perspective," Mr. Moebius said. "With these storms, we didn't have a lot of people trying to get to work."

Snow and ice-fighting forces are likely to have the upcoming weekend off. While forecasters expect bitter cold to return to the Toledo area overnight and linger until the weekend, precipitation is unlikely through next week.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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