Prairie Township residents will need to drive more carefully after snowfall this year, because there will be less salt on the roads.
Road Superintendent Dave McAninch said the township won’t be able to get as much salt as usual this year from Franklin County. There is a shortage because salt mines have not been able to keep up with demand, he said.
The county is asking everyone to reduce their salt usage by 20 percent, McAninch said.
The township has averaged 572 tons a year over the last three years, so this year they are only allowed 457 tons. As the winter goes on, McAninch said, the county will reevaluate the situation and decide whether more salt can be purchased, but for the time being there is a reduction.
Whether they will have enough salt depends on how many storms there are. McAninch said if there are only a few snows, the supply should be fine, even if those storms have heavier snow. But there could be a problem if there are several storms, even if they don’t drop a lot of snow or ice.
Since the township waits to salt until they are done plowing, he said, they use the same amount of salt on a small storm as on a large one.
There are several strategies the township will use to reduce their salt consumption. The most obvious one is to put less salt on the roads. McAninch said the trucks have computer systems that regulate the amount, and the one manual truck they have will be set at its lowest setting.
Another strategy is to mix salt brine or calcium chloride with the salt, which helps the salt work faster. The township will also strategically pre-treat roads with salt brine.
Paying close attention to the weather forecast can also save some salt. McAninch said if the temperature is forecasted to rise above freezing after a storm, they may scale back.
“We may instead of putting salt on every single inch of our roads just go out and salt intersections, stop signs, and our main roads and that’s it…it’s going to be an event by event decision.”
People will also need to adjust their driving to the conditions.
“I think people are going to have to drive a little more cautiously, because it’s going to take a little more time for roads to get like they’re used to, especially in Prairie Township where they’re snow-free and dry," McAninch said. “It would do people good to be a little more cautious anyway, because sometimes they drive a little recklessly during events.”
In a worst-case scenario, where they are out of salt and can’t get more, McAninch said they could use what he called calcium sand. But, he said, they want to avoid that if possible, because it’s not as effective as salt. Instead of melting snow, it just provides some traction. It also is hard on the equipment and very messy, he said. “We are going to do our best for that not to happen.”