After being peppered with yet another layer of the other white stuff Tuesday morning, road crews in New York and New Jersey are running low of the warehoused rock salt they’ve been scooping into trucks and then methodically spraying over perpetually icy streets.
From the windswept Northeast to the shivering Midwest, states’ transportation departments and local municipalities have been reporting shortages of de-icing salt reserves — even as America’s salt
producers and distributors are having trouble keeping pace.
In Jersey City, N.J., just across the Hudson from Manhattan, city
officials are waiting for more shipments of salt, even as they begin
to use construction scoops and semis to truck out all the snow piled
up from a week of relentless blizzards.
“We go through about 800 tons of salt per storm,” said Jersey City
Mayor Stephen Fulop on Monday. “We’re getting 500 today, so we’re not
really up to where we need to be entirely, but it’s a start — it’s
better than what we had. This will get us through one event,” he said
before Tuesday’s winter squall.
After getting his 500 tons Monday, Mayor Fulop tweeted: “Bigger
welcome party than 4 the #superbowl teams in #jerseycity 500 tons
expected 2day. need more.”
In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s public works department, too, finally
received 500 tons of rock salt Monday — though officials say it
requires about 1,000 tons of salt for every inch of snow that falls.
Road crews there have been experimenting with beet juice, and current
salt reserves are being extended with mixtures of limestone and sand.
“Typically, in a storm like this, we like to have 3,000 tons,” said
Pittsburgh’s Chief Operations Officer Guy Costa early Tuesday, as
another squall moved into the area. “We’re working with one-third of
what we’d like to have, but we’re going to have to make it work… We
typically use 40,000 to 42,000 tons [of salt] a year — so far we’re at
New Jersey has spread almost 373,000 tons of salt on its streets since
last Tuesday — and that was before last Thursday’s blizzard and
today’s squall, according to Joe Dee, spokesman for the state’s
Department of Transportation. The state DOT has already spent a record
$82.3 million for snow removal, including the spreading of salt. Last
winter, New Jersey only used 258,000 tons all season.
In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy declared a state of emergency
because of dwindling salt supplies last week, and New York Gov. Andrew
Cuomo had also declared a state of emergency the week before, citing
regional salt shortages. New Jersey Gov. Christie Christie has
declared at least four weather-related emergencies this season.
In the meantime, New Jersey officials said a 40,000-ton shipment of
salt remains stuck in port in Maine, due to a 1920 maritime law that
requires ships to fly a U.S. flag to deliver goods between American
ports. According to Mr. Dee, state officials have not been able to
obtain a waiver for the law, so the salt, now on the Anastasia S,
registered in the Marshall Islands, must be shipped to New Jersey by
And according to Pittsburgh’s Mr. Costa, the city has been waiting for
its pre-ordered deliveries from American Rock Salt, located in upstate
New York. The company also provides road salt for towns and school
districts in 31 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, and many are facing
shortages as well.
Pittsburgh had ordered 45,000 tons at a cost of about $55 per ton,
Costa said, on the basis of National Weather Service predictions for
44 inches of snow this season. More than 55 inches have fallen so far,
“We’re not happy that we place orders and we don’t receive what we
order, or they don’t deliver at all,” Costa told local reporters.
In a statement, American Rock Salt said it is working “24/7 to address
this current emergency,” and is unable to respond to media inquiries
about contracts, supply levels, or mining operations. “We have been
coordinating efforts with local and state governmental officials and
agencies throughout this winter’s storm activities to maintain public
safety to the extent feasible,” the company said.
Road salt runs about $55 a ton normally, though it can jump to $250 or
more a ton when in seasons when there are more-than-normal winter
storms and corresponding tight demand, according to Tom Breier, head
of the salt distributor Ice Melt Chicago.
After last week’s blizzard, the streets of Wichita, Kan., remained
covered with ice and snow for days after the city faced its own
shortage of salt — even though it is just an hour away from
Hutchinson, which has a large regional mine.
“The salt has been in Hutchinson for 242 million years,” said Joe
Pjor, Wichita’s deputy public works director, last week. “Now our
challenge was last week, getting it 60 miles from Hutchinson to
Wichita.” The city did receive a shipment of local salt this week,
In New Jersey, officials are warning of the consequences of another storm.
“A lot of the counties and municipalities are out of salt,” Department
of Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson said Monday. “If we have
one more storm, New Jersey is going to have to close its interstates.”