Loading a salt truck
Motorists beware: as snow has piled up, cities have depleted their stockpiles of salt fighting slippery roads, and the result could impact your safety on the road as cities resort to cutting back use.
Shortages are widespread across cold climate states: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and Connecticut, and possibly even more areas in these states.
A quick Google search shows dozens of news articles across the north highlighting cities and villages wrestling with tackling the issue, with some communities getting creative.
Authorities in Polk County, Wisconsin are using cheese brine as a mix to add to dwindling road salt supplies, said Michael Sproul, program manager at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
"Cheese brine is not an alternative to salt, it's just a cheaper version," he said, adding that it's mixed with salt to conserve supplies. "In Wisconsin, it's a waste product. For us, it can be used on the roads. Someone can give it to us. We ask them to filter and deliver it, and we use it. ... We're doing them a favor. It's just another material that we can use with salt to treat the snow and ice that's supposed to be close to free."
The brine is effective because it works at a lower temperature than normal salt, said Emil Norby, technical support manager at the Polk County Highway Department.
Areas along the East Coast- mainly New York and New Jersey are having a hard time because of the Jones Act, an issue we've talked about on this very blog before. No foreign vessels are allowed to enter several ports, and finding a U.S. flagged ship is very difficult as everyone races to replenish inventories among a limited amount of ships.
A warm up this week sweeping parts of the North may help melt some of the recent snows, but with forecasts showing a return to brutal cold weather, more snow is likely on the way. Chicago is already at its fourth snowiest winter, and the city has blown its entire snow plow and salt budget already.
Areas of Michigan had the most amount of snow on the ground ever for February, and it's so bad in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that the city is asking drivers to move their cars so plows can push back piles of snow some 5-10 feet deep that have been impacting emergency services and public transportation.
Drivers should brace for slower driving if the snow continues to pile up and salt shortages likely will linger in many areas as budgets are spent and deliveries come slow.