Midwest lacking salt for roads

Danny Cozzi

Ice sucks. We learned all about that this winter. We’re also enjoying how much ice sucks paired with a salt shortage.

Without salt, keeping the roads safe to drive on is not easy. But, if you slip while crossing the street or walking around, don’t blame the city.

All over the Midwest are reports of salt shortages as cities and states consider alternatives for bettering the roads. For DeKalb, it’s a different but equally troubling problem.

“The city gets 3,500 tons of salt every year. That’s meant to last us through the entire winter,” said T.J. Moore, director of public works. “In the darkest part of the winter … they had a hard time getting it to us.”

So, unlike a Jimmy John’s sandwich delivery, the salt deliveries the state guarantees DeKalb each year have fallen pretty far behind the city’s schedule.

Though 3,500 tons of salt sounds like a lot, with a winter like this it goes quick. The problem isn’t melting and refreezing because the temperatures stayed low enough for ice under the roads’ surfaces to stay frozen all season.

“Because of the extreme cold weather, which I hate in every other way, the cold actually protected us a bit from potholes … in the worst part of the winter,” Moore said.

Potholes form as ice in the ground melts and refreezes, causing the water to expand and contract, which slowly breaks up the asphalt.

Moore said there’s a bit of a silver lining to the cold preventing potholes, but I’m not letting that get in the way of my constant complaining. Besides, the low temperatures were hardly the beginning of our problems.

“We didn’t get many big snow events, but we got lots of very small snow events, so that was very challenging for us,” Moore said.

But, we can rest assured knowing we aren’t alone in the struggle.

Salt mines are working non-stop — that’s honestly 24 hours a day sometimes — to combat the shortages of road salt, according to a Sunday Chicago Tribune article.

“Seven to 10 times a day … miners blast a ‘room’ of salt, with each blast yielding about 326 tons,” according to the article.

Miners are collecting nearly the same amount in a day what DeKalb uses throughout an entire winter season. That effort speaks to the incredible degree of the salt shortage.

The rock-hard truth is winter isn’t over yet. Thanks to cruelly indecisive Midwest weather patterns we may see a lot of ice melting and refreezing as the cold starts to relent. So, when you’re walking or driving across mother nature’s best practical joke, be wary of the dangers and do what you can to ease the burden.

Keep your driveway, parking lots and sidewalks shoveled.

The longer you wait for snow and ice to get packed down by your cars and footsteps the more slippery and terrible everything will be.

Buy and use what salt you can and clear off as much ice as possible. The sooner it’s gone, the sooner I’ll stop falling on my butt every time I walk home from class