Cities work to make salt supply last through winter - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cities work to make salt supply last through winter

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- With colder weather on the way, a shortage of road salt is in the forecast. The U.S. used a near-record 20.3 million tons of road salt last winter.

Officials say supplies are low and prices have tripled this year. Gas and diesel prices, they say, have also led to a shortage.

Some area communities didn't want to take a chance on not having enough salt. That's why they ordered a little early this year. That may save them money and headaches down the road, but the Floods of 2008 may also be a blessing when it comes to sand supplies.

Much of the sand that was bagged to hold the water back will get new life to give better traction during snow and ice.

While the snow hasn't started to pile up on area roads yet, it's only a matter of time. In Cedar Falls, road crews started preparing early this year - ordering salt in October. Public works officials say they'll try to save as much as they can by watering it down.

"The key to salt brine is keeping the correct dilution, the proper dilution, which is 33%. If you do that, it works better than dry salt. It'll actually takes the freeze point down to -6, rather than 20 degrees for regular salt," Brian Heath of Cedar Falls Public Works said.

The salt dome in Cedar Falls holds 1,500 tons of salt. At any one time, the city stocks it with about 1,000 tons of salt. Their contract allows an order for 2,400 tons of salt per year. If they run out of that, they may have trouble getting more.

One saving grace may be plenty of sand on hand. Sandbagging from the summer floods left a good supply.

"All of the clean material which was debagged the city is going to use of winter application. Typically, they add salt to that to keep it from freezing and that's used on residential streets or extreme cold temperatures," Heath said.

Heath says sand from the floods used this winter comes from sandbags that were used on the dry side of the levee or on top of the levee that did not get contaminated from flood water.

Online Reporter: Bob Waters

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