Heartland city leaders deal with salt shortage - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Heartland city leaders deal with salt shortage

(KFVS) -

The winter of 2013-2014 was one of the harshest in Heartland history.

Many communities used double the normal amount of salt to clear snow and ice off the streets. Now, they're trying to get stocked up for this year, but that's turning out to be tough.

Most people are keeping their fingers crossed for a mild winter.

However, if this year turns out to be a repeat of last year, we may not be getting around town too well. A lot of that comes down to not having enough salt.

It's a seemingly simple mineral, but when everyone needs it salt is as precious as gold.

“The salt is actually a chemical reaction that caused the ice to break down,” Paducah Public Works Director Rick Murphy said. “We've found that it's difficult to get supplies for this winter.”

Murphy says it's coming at a high cost, too.

“Salt costs are more than double what they were last year,” Murphy said.

Murphy says that's because of a nationwide salt shortage.

“State governments, municipalities, are ordering up all the salt they are ordering up all the salt they can get and they're ordering up 20 percent in excess their previous supplies because they're fearful they may have another winter and not have the salt available,” Murphy said.

Cities in the Heartland are each handling the salt problem differently. Murphy says, in Paducah, workers mix the salt with water first.

“The advantage of making brine is to extend the life or to make your salt supplies stretch as far as you can,” Murphy said.

Plus, the city had some salt left over from last year.

“We are looking at around 180 to 200 tons,” Murphy said.

Still, they've only secured half as much salt as they used last winter.

“[It] will start us out at 400, last year we used 823,” Murphy said.

However, some cities couldn't store up any salt from last year.

“It's all empty,” Cairo street superintendent Freddie Cuvington said.

Cuvington says the city usually gets salt from I-DOT.

“Three or four tons,” Cuvington said.

Cuvington says they hope to be stocked up by the end of Novemeber but with so many unknowns, they might have to rely heavily on equipment.

“As long as we get it before the ice hits it of before it freezes at night, and start pushing early, it won't be as bad,” Cuvington said.

A government grant paid for two new plows and a spreader. Those are things Cuvington says will be crucial especially if this winter is anything like last.

“It got pretty rough. We didn't have the new equipment. We only had that truck so we just used what we had,” Cuvington said.

In Perryville they've got a back-up plan.

“This is our solution to the salt crisis,” Public Works Director Mark Brown said.

Perryville city leaders say it'll be the next best thing to salt if they need it, plus better on the budget.

“Last year we purchased salt for 72 dollars a ton. The best price we found this year is about 104 dollars a ton,” City Administrator Brent Buerck said.

In anticipation of the higher price, Brown says they bought extra at the end of last year and stored it.

“We are starting off this winter with just over 200 tons of salt, which historically is all we need,” Brown said.

If that supply runs out, they'll be going to plan B.

“At this point this is all that we can get,” Brown said.

“We can push more, we can push earlier, we can mix it with sand, and we can mix it with cinders,” Buerck said.

But as for now, these city leaders agree that it's not the time to wish for a white winter.

“I'm predicting no snow,” Brown said.

“I hope it doesn't sleet,” Cuvington said.

“That's all we can do, nobody has a crystal ball,” Murphy said.

Copyright 2014 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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