America Is Running Low on Road Salt. Thanks, Winter.

The country is experiencing a run on salt.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
Add to Briefcase
Brian Resnick
Feb. 5, 2014, 8:26 a.m.

This winter, with its polar vortices and frequent storms, has driven up demand for road salt so much that municipalities are starting to run low on supplies. And local news outlets are crying “crisis.”

Here are some of their cries:

  • In West Moreland County, Pa., CBS is calling the salt situation dire. “We were promised 400 tons last week,” a public-works official in the area told the outlet. “We only got 75 ton. We were promised 100 ton today; I got 100 ton.”

  • In Delaware County, N.J., the township roads commissioner told a local paper, “We’re as close to a state of emergency as you can get,” and said salt vendors are telling him they are out of stock.

  • New York state is currently relocating 3,500 tons of the mineral down to Long Island from upstate, due to shortages.

And many more.

Faced with steep, sudden demand, major salt manufacturers have turned to prioritizing where to send their product. Morton Salt, which produces the mineral for roads as well as for food, told officials in Cleveland “they can only bring up 10,000 tons a day and, about a week ago, were about 23,000 tons behind.”

Morton acknowledges its delayed deliveries. “We know this is frustrating for customers and communities, and we apologize,” the company said in a statement.

But why are supplies so low?

“There’s been high usage, and then everybody wanting to get the last of their contracted salt kind of at the same time, and it’s just a narrower window to get the salt,” says Mark Klein, a spokesman for Cargill, a major supplier of road salt.

So it’s actually more of a salt bottleneck than a salt shortage.

The problem is that municipalities place their salt orders in the fall, based on prior usage and long-range forecasts. They typically receive a minimum order before the winter season begins and reserve the right to order up to a predetermined maximum amount. What’s happening now is that some locations are asking for their maximums, all at once.

While bad weather increases demand for salt, it also makes delivering that salt much harder. Salt-carrying barges can’t pass through frozen rivers. Freight trains need to plow the path ahead of them. And delivery by truck is stymied for the same reason road salt is needed in the first place.

“These storms have just been relentless,” Klein says, noting that it’s not the huge storms that drop a foot of snow that tax the salt supply, the kind that call for snow plows. It’s the repeated dustings of snow and ice. At this time last year, salt miners were working less than a 40 hours a week. There were even some layoffs. This year, “we’re working overtime in our mines,” Klein says. In those mines, workers are blasting giant 45-foot-by-25 foot walls of salt and then processing the crystals down to size for road use.

As demand for road salt soars, so do its prices. In the Chicago suburbs, for example, officials say prices are three times higher than normal. The Southtown Star reports that one public-works director “has talked with suppliers out of state and has been quoted prices as high as $176 per ton, far above the $49 a ton his village paid.”

“Salt is like gold,” he told the paper.

What We're Following See More »
TALKED ABOUT STRENGTHENING RUSSO-U.S. RELATIONS
Vekselberg Met with Cohen Days Before the Election
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg."

Source:
HAS DELAYED WHILE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES
Mueller Tells Court He’s Ready for Papadopoulos Sentencing
3 days ago
THE LATEST
COPS A PLEA
Cohen Business Partner to Cooperate with Investigators
3 days ago
THE LATEST
R/E HIS DEMAND
Trump Meeting with Wray and Rosenstein
5 days ago
THE LATEST
TRUMP DEMANDED IT IN TWEET
DOJ Asks Watchdog to Look into Any Infiltration of Trump Campaign
5 days ago
THE LATEST

"The Justice Department asked its internal watchdog to examine if there was any impropriety in the counterintelligence investigation of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, after the president demanded Sunday that the department investigate the motives behind the inquiry. Earlier Sunday, in one of a series of tweets targeting the probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump wrote: 'I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!'"

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login