Janesville57.8°

Despite meager snowfall, salt use has increased

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Marcia Nelesen
Frank Schultz
January 18, 2011
— As you drive through the aftermath of one of this winter's deepest snowfalls today, consider:

So far this winter, workers already have spread more salt on Janesville streets than they do during an entire, typical season.


Through Jan. 11, the city used about 4,900 tons of salt, said John Whitcomb, director of operations. That does not include the salt used during Monday's snow. Salt used in a typical season ranges from 3,500 to 4,000 tons.


More salt was applied Monday as fluffy white snow fell most of the day, amounting to nearly 4 inches by nightfall as snow continued. That might not seem like a lot, but 4 inches is the biggest one-day snowfall recorded in Janesville so far this season.


Streets, rural roads and highways were snow-covered and slippery most of Monday, law-enforcement agencies reported.


Drivers were generally cautious and accidents were few and minor through much of the day, said Cmdr. Troy Knutson of the Rock County Sheriff's Office.


Janesville and Beloit declared snow emergencies Monday to get cars off the streets.


Whitcomb said he hoped to have Janesville streets plowed for this morning's drive time, but much depended on when the snow would end.


Snow caused cancellations of meetings and after-school activities in several southern Wisconsin communities and schools Monday. Milton, Brodhead and Albany schools were among those that sent students home early.


Monday's was the first time Janesville had to plow streets in 2011.


The last significant snowfall came Dec. 12 and 13. That snowfall and the follow-up street care the next week is mostly responsible for the high salt use, Whitcomb said.


That storm was problematic because it started with rain and temperatures of about 37 and 38 degrees, Whitcomb said.


"By the end of the afternoon, it was 14 (degrees) and still snowing," Whitcomb said. "We had a lot of issues during that event in managing and preventing that very, very, wet snow from packing and sticking to the pavement."


The next week, the city continued spreading a salt/sand mix on major streets where plows had not been able to scrape the pavement clean. This was done to improve traction where streets had iced up. The salt added to the sand also keeps the sand from freezing in the trucks.


That storm was "one of the worst I'd seen as far as salt usage," Whitcomb said.


The city sent out feelers a couple of weeks ago to buy more salt, Whitcomb said.


"We just want to be prepared, just in case," he said.


The nation experienced a salt shortage in the winter of 2007-08.



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