Salt shortage delaying snow removal in some Dayton-area cities

‘Salt becomes like liquid gold when it snows like this,’ city leader said.

After a week of snow-covered roadways, road salt is at a premium with some Dayton-area cities and they report having slower responses in clearing neighborhood side streets

Cold temperatures will continue today and Saturday, with lows near zero degrees, and more snow is expected, according to the National Weather Service. This will create problems for road crews through the weekend, but they’ll get a reprieve next week as temperatures are expected to be above freezing.

On Thursday, Beavercreek road crews worked at clearing the main thoroughfares most of the day and hoped to work neighborhood streets later in the day. City Manager Pete Landrum said the city was running low on salt due to canceled or delayed shipments. The city got a small shipment of salt Thursday morning and hoped to continue to get other shipments.

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Landrum said this is, unfortunately, not an uncommon thing during the winter for any city.

“Salt becomes like liquid gold when it snows like this,” he said.

Crews have split into two 16-hour shifts, which takes longer to reach all the roads in the city, Landrum said. Road crews had already been out for days and nights covering other snow events this week. Landrum said he could not in good conscience put crews out on the road without proper rest. Beavercreek currently has 20 drivers covering nearly 600 miles of road.

“We’re doing everything we can,” Landrum said. “I know this is not the service that Beavercreek residents are used to, but I think that is a testament to the great service we usually give year round.”

Clearcreek Twp. Administrator Matt Clark said with a limited supply his township is using road salt more sparingly than it typically does when treating its roads.

Streets won’t be cleared curb-to-curb like residents are used to absent salt, but township crews will keep them passable, Clark said.

In Riverside, its salt deliveries from Cargill have also been delayed. The city ordered salt on Feb. 4 which was delivered Feb. 17. As of right now, the city is not low on salt, but if the delays continue, they could run out, City Manager Mark Carpenter said.

Greene County, which also gets its salt from Cargill, said its supply is “thinner” than it would like, but they have enough to get through another snow storm, according to county highway superintendent Eric Miller. The county has lent some townships and villages salt over the past few weeks. Miller said Greene County got a shipment of 400 tons of salt from Cargill on Monday and expects more salt to come today.

“It’s a shipping issue,” Miller said.

Christine Rupert, Cargill’s managing director for road safety, said the snow has caused some problems for Cargill when it comes to delivery.

“Cargill is proud to deliver deicing salt that helps prevent traffic accidents in Ohio making communities safer. While some customers may be experiencing a delay in their orders due to increased demand from consecutive storms and adverse shipping conditions, we are not out of salt inventory at this time. We are leveraging our extensive supply chain network and stockpiles of salt to work with our customers to fill their orders quickly. We encourage our customers to reach out to us with any concerns,” she said in an emailed statement.

Some cities not having salt issues

Fairborn, which gets its salt from the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the city is in a good position salt-wise. The city should be getting 500 tons of salt by the end of the day on Friday.

“I think we could handle another couple of storms like this with what we have,” said Public Works Director Karen Hawkins.

Centerville, West Carrollton, Miami Twp. and Miamisburg spokesmen said the cities have enough salt.

Trotwood is not having issues with salt, City Manager Quincy Pope said, but asked residents to move cars parked on the street so that plows can more efficiently get through the city.

Dayton, which gets salt from Cargill, said its salt supply is adequate. Fred Stovall, director of public works, said he doesn’t anticipate running out of salt for the remainder of the winter season. Dayton has used about 7,900 tons of salt as of Feb. 17, Stovall said.

Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner suspects the county has used more salt just this month than in the previous two or three years but said he won’t know for sure until he tallies the tons.

The county, which uses 20 trucks to clear 315 miles of roadway, was running dangerously short of salt earlier this week but finally started receiving new supplies from Cargill on Thursday after two weeks without a delivery, Gruner said.

“They hadn’t even been returning our calls,” he said. “I think we’ll be okay but we were getting pretty low.”

The county did turn away some jurisdictions, including Jefferson Twp., which sought help from the county to replenish their salt supplies, Gruner said.

Montgomery County is responsible for clearing some of the county’s largest arterials including Needmore Road, North Dixie Drive, Shoup Mill Road and Turner Road north of Dayton and Mad River Road, Social Row Road, Spring Valley Pike and Yankee Street in the southern part of the county.

Gruner said new storms that may crop up in coming days may put the county’s salt supply back in jeopardy.

“Depending on how many how many loads we have delivered, we may start to run low again next week,” he said.

Dangerous job

Drivers should slow down and give snow plows the same respect shown emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances, Gruner said.

One county truck plowing snow was involved in a minor accident Tuesday when it was struck by a private vehicle that slid through an intersection, Gruner said.

Since Feb. 1, at least 16 Ohio Department of Transportation snow plows have been hit, which is double the number recorded all last winter, Bruning said. One of those crashes resulted in the death Tuesday of a 71-year-old man who hit an ODOT plow in Medina County, according to ODOT.

But even minor crashes can take snow plow out of service for hours while a crash reports are completed, hampering removal efforts and causing a ripple effect as other plows have to cover the affected truck’s route, Bruning said.

“We really need drivers to pay attention and give our plows space. They (plow drivers) tend to drive slower than normal traffic speeds,” he said. “This is because while treating the roadway with salt, if they were to drive too fast it would toss the salt much farther than intended.”

Nick Blizzard, Eric Schwartzberg, Eileen McClory, India Duke, and Cornelius Frolik contributed to this story.