Nationwide salt shortage, perpetual winter storms diminish supply
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Despite a lull in the winter storms that have pounded the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has advised its 12 highway districts to conserve salt supplies and focus on other conservation efforts in combating further snow and ice this season.
“Our snow plow operators are carrying a heavier burden in clearing our highways,” said KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock. “It’s a real challenge, but our crews are working hard to ensure our roads are safe and passable.”
Currently, the cabinet has less than 70,000 tons of salt on hand statewide. Historically, this amount has been more than enough for riding out the winter. But the cabinet wants to ensure that each county has enough salt to handle another snow and ice event.
To level supplies, salt has been shifted among highway districts, and the state’s emergency reserve, stored at the Mega Cavern in Louisville, has also been tapped. Plow operators have concentrated on clearing priority A routes first and transitioning to B and C routes afterward. The cabinet will reassess the distribution of salt if another snow and ice event occurs.
A national salt shortage, delays in salt deliveries and wave after wave of winter storms have hampered the cabinet’s snow and ice removal efforts. The cabinet has ordered more than 90,000 tons of salt, and shipments are expected in the coming weeks. As salt deliveries trickle in, the cabinet has implemented conservation methods to preserve supplies.
- During a wet snow with moderate temperatures (25 degrees and warmer), crews should be able to rely strictly on plowing operations to combat accumulation on roadways. Once the snowfall has ended and it is daylight, crews can begin light applications of salt in the cleanup phase.
- Reducing application rates when applying salt. In most cases, an application rate of 180-200 pounds of salt per 2-lane mile would be sufficient during cleanup efforts. The customary application rate would be 250-400 lbs of salt per 2-lane mile.
- On lower priority routes, where possible, crews can blend sand or small aggregates with the salt to extend supplies. In most cases, crews have to rely on plowing operations and warming temperatures to completely clear these routes.
This season, the cabinet has used more than 410,000 tons of salt, compared with 160,000 tons at this point in 2013. Snow and ice operations have cost the cabinet more than $53 million this year.