Salt Supplies Dwindle as Snow Piles up Across U.S.

New Jersey officials say the state's current salt levels are "uncomfortably low"

  • Share
  • Read Later

As yet another snowstorm ripped across the United States this week, snarling traffic and keeping kids out of school, cities and states were dealing with another problem: They’re running low on salt.

Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey both declared states of emergency on Wednesday as the northeast was blanketed with snow and ice. A New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman said the state’s stockpile of rock salt used for de-icing roads is at an “uncomfortably low” level. Through Jan. 26, the state had used 277,000 tons of salt this winter season. That’s compared with just 258,000 tons New Jersey used through all of 2013, spokesman Joe Dee said.

“We have enough for [Wednesday’s] storm and for the weekend,” Dee said. “We are eager for some mild or at least sunny weather so we can get several deliveries in a a row to replenish our supply.”

In parts of New York, though officials at the Department of Transportation told TIME the state has enough to handle the current and coming storms, there have been reported shortages on Long Island and in New York City. “We have experiencing a salt shortage for some parts of the state, primarily New York City and the Long Island area because there have been so many storms this season already,” Cuomo said, according to Reuters. The state said 3,500 tons—or 130 truckloads—of salt have been sent to parts of New York City and Long Island in response to the shortage.

New York City started the season with about 250,000 tons of salt, but is quickly running through the stockpile, the New York Times reports.

“Obviously there is a high demand, but the state’s been managing its supply throughout the season,” said Beau Duffy, a spokesman at the New York Department of Transportation. “If any request for salt comes we’ll handle them as quickly as we can.”

In other parts of the country where snow has been falling consistently since the season began, communities have been using more salt than in years past. Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation had used 686,000 tons of salt by the end of January, about 200,000 more tons than used in a typical year, the Associated Press reports. A spokesperson at the Pennsylvania department told TIME the state has enough salt for about five more storms and does not anticipate running out anytime soon.

In some areas of the state, however, municipalities are experimenting with alternative substances to melt snow and ice like Beet Heet, which is made from sugar beet molasses.