Road salt supply melts away amid storms

Local town highway departments reported salt supply delays as they battled snow storms that shut schools and kept road crews busy over the last two weeks.

Highway officials in Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Clinton all said the massive storms kept them running, and the uncertainty of salt deliveries kept them worrying.

They were all luckier than Hyde Park, which ran out of road salt just before the roads iced over last week.

Kathy Kinsella, the superintendent in Rhinebeck, told the Observer she had just ordered salt Feb. 20 and the supplier told her they were backlogged and it would take “a couple more days than usual.”

“We do have some salt, although it is getting low. We usually get salt delivered within 2-3 days of an order,” she said.

“This has been a very rough year. We had 11 inches in one storm and then 20 inches in the next,” Kinsella added. She emphasized that it’s not just storm events that create a need for salt, it’s needed for road clean-up afterward as well as icy conditions any time.

In Red Hook, highway superintendent Theresa Burke said, “The weather definitely has had an effect on road salt and supplies; we hear about shortages all over.”

However, she added, “We have managed to keep enough stock on hand to treat the roads, but the suppliers have been doling out orders intermittently based on need. We have never been denied our orders, but we cannot count on the delivery schedule this winter, so we are trying to stay one step ahead — and so far so good.”

Jason Fullam of Hyde Park could barely find his car after the largest storm of the season buried the region. Courtesy Photo / Submitted By Jason Fullam
Jason Fullam of Hyde Park could barely find his car after the largest storm of the season buried the region. Courtesy Photo / Submitted by Jason Fullam

Theron Tompkins, highway superintendent in Clinton, told the Observer Feb. 21, “It’s just one storm after another…we were out last night and again this morning…It’s hard to keep up when you’re out every single day.”

Since towns have to follow state guidelines for awarding their highway materials contracts, Tompkins noted that highway superintendents can’t just go to another supplier to find the salt.

“We never know when they’re coming after we put in an order, it could be in a few days, it could be next week, two weeks,” Tompkins said. “We’re at their mercy as to when they bring it; we try to stay ahead of them with our orders.”

He noted that sand is one option and added that, although it’s not as effective as salt, it is more readily available because it is locally sourced.

In Hyde Park, according to Town Supervisor Aileen Rohr, the town highway superintendent Walt Doyle told her Feb. 19 that they had run out of the salt after treating the roads in that day’s snowfall.

Doyle told the Observer he had ordered 500 tons of salt on Feb. 11, which normally takes three to five days to receive. But, he said, the supplier told him the shipment would be delayed because of deliveries in Long Island and New York City.

Rohr then contacted Dana Smith at Dutchess County Emergency Services, who helped coordinate a loan of 100 tons of salt, which was made available by Feb. 20.

A first delivery of salt—65 tons—from the supplier arrived on Feb. 21, and by the end of that day, the town had received a total of 250 tons, half its order.

Doyle said he expected the rest of his order, another 250 tons, by Feb. 24 and would be placing a new order, for an additional 800 tons, that same day.

Rohr said the expenses so far this winter have depleted the town’s salt budget, adding, “We are now utilizing our snow reserve fund, which we created a few years back for this type of winter. We were hoping not to have to utilize it, but Mother Nature had a different plan for all of us.”

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