Snowy weather taking toll on salt supplies

With this winter being the second snowiest on record, local municipalities are finding their salt supplies being stretched to the limit.

“We’ve had 31 snow events and received 41 inches of snow to date,” said Kevin Stahr, communications coordinator for Geneva. “Normally at this time, we would have received 22 inches of snow.”

According to the National Weather Service, the area received 33.7 inches of snow in January, which made it the third-snowiest month on record. And February is starting out snowy as well.

The area received between 3 to 4 inches of snow Saturday, and could receive another 2 to 6 inches of snow this afternoon through Wednesday morning.

Saturday’s snowstorm pushed the 2013-14 season snow total to 52.8 inches, the second-snowiest winter season the Chicago area has seen. With 66.2 inches, the 1978-79 season still holds the record.

The snowy activity is putting a strain on Geneva’s salt supplies.

"We've used 2,882 tons of salt since October," Stahr said. "Typically, we use 2,000 tons from October to April. We've already expended a
season's worth of salt supply at this point."

The city now has about 600 tons of salt left, and has had to order 800 additional tons.

“We’ve tried to stretch our salt out by adding sand to the mix,” he said. “We are using a 2-to-1 ratio of salt to sand. So for every one bucket of sand we add to the trucks, we’re adding two buckets of salt. We’ve been trying to use salt as sparingly as possible.”

The city of Batavia has between 1,800 to 1,900 tons of salt on hand, but Batavia street superintendent Scott Haines doesn’t know whether that will be enough for the rest of the winter.

“Under normal circumstances, we should be in pretty good shape, but this year is far from normal,” Haines said. “At this point, we are in a holding pattern to see how things go. We are exploring other resources to see what is available on the marketplace.”

Since November, the city has used 3,600 tons of salt. On the average, the city will use between 2,800 and 3,300 tons of salt a season, Haines said.

Batavia has taken steps to conserve salt.

“We are using less in the neighborhoods,” Haines said. “We are trying to ration it as best as we can.”

The recent cold snaps also presented a challenge to public works departments. St. Charles Public Services Manager Chris Adesso said the city treats its salt to make it more effective in the colder weather.

Sugar Grove has used about 2,500 tons of salt, close to the average amount the village uses during an entire season. Village officials say there is enough salt on hand for the immediate future.

Snow plow driver Mark Gaffino of North Aurora, however, isn’t worried about running out of salt. He contracts to plow commercial properties.

“I’m sitting OK right now,” Gaffino said. “I know some guys who are out completely. I predicted this would happen. I had a gut feeling. We had a mild winter last year.”

Despite the challenges of this winter, municipalities are doing their best to make sure the streets are safe for motorists.

“Safety is still our main priority,” Stahr said. “We want to continue to provide a safe road environment for our residents and visitors.”