Pass the salt? Delaware says no as storm nears

PHILADELPHIA - February 12, 2014

Transportation officials in Delaware say they have turned down requests from other state for road salt.

James Westhoff, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Transportation, said Wednesday evening that as a snowstorm approached, salt stockpiles were 80 percent full.

He says the 36,000 tons are enough for this winter blast and at least two more snow events of the same size.

Westhoff says DelDOT has received requests from other states for salt as snowy, icy weather continues to torment areas from the Deep South into New England.

Delaware has refused those requests, he says, because there is a shortage in the Mid-Atlantic region, and must be judicious in its use of resources.

Westhoff says a salt shipment expected on February 25 has been delayed until March 7th.

This is pre-game for PennDot. Weary crews have another big storm to tackle, and the morning commute will be a mess.

"When you have that amount of snow coming that early during the rush hour, it is important you get a lot of salt down early and fast to get ahead of that storm from the beginning," said Nick Martino.

Salt supplies are running low across our region.

PennDOT has used 120,000 tons so far; the third most during the past 35 years.

The department says it has enough, but no surplus for other municipalities to tap into.

Suppliers simply can't keep up with demand.

Most of the salt is being shipped to the Oceanport Salt terminal in Claymont, Delaware and PennDOT has first dibs.

Oceanport also supplies most of the municipalities in Chester County. They are hoping to get more, but it won't be coming anytime soon.

"We have three vessels on the water as we speak. They will be here probably the last week of February. And everything on the ground now is allocated and sold to our contract customers," says Lisa Stapleford.

International Salt serves four counties in the area and they too are waiting for new shipments from South America at their Bristol stockpile.

Their customers will have to wait up to 12 days to get a refill.

Suburban communities like South Coventry Township are posting alerts on their websites, saying, "All residents are warned that not all roads will be salted, and travelling conditions may be dangerous."

Many will be stretching their supplies.

Downingtown used 100 tons during last week's storm. They have just 60 to 80 tons on hand now.

In Upper Darby, supplies were low, but the township just received a shipment.

Officials say they are good for now, but if suppliers continue to fall behind, another storm could put roads in jeopardy.

"This is just wearing on our crews," said Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzi. "Our crews are doing a great job. I have great staff. They are at it. They all live here; they protect the residents. From police, fire and everybody, it has been a great team effort, but we are wearing out."

PennDOT says it can't spare any salt, but can help by keeping the major roads clear.

"We have to ensure that we keep our expressways and major highways open because all that is going to do is cause more grief and more gridlock for the municipalities," said Martino.

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