Continued cold, snow causing rock salt shortage

Published Jan 24, 2014 at 11:06 am (Updated Jan 24, 2014 at 11:06 am)

January has been rough, and to make matters worse, the bitter temperatures and continued snowstorms caused some area hardware stores to experience a rock salt shortage.

Rock salt, a variation of table salt, is commonly used by road crews throughout the county and elsewhere to keep the roads free and clear of snow and ice.

But with frequent below-freezing temperatures and regular snow showers, local and regional suppliers are unable to keep up with the demand.

“It’s become more challenging to find it,” Greg Gold, owner of Miller’s Ace Hardware in McMurray, said about rock salt. “Our local and regional suppliers’ supplies are drying up.”

Gold said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, but he’s hoping this year’s shortage won’t last.

“Rock salt is normally the first to dry up,” he said.

Thankfully, his crew was able to scrounge up roughly 36 pallets, which will arrive at the store later today. In the meantime, he’s directing customers to other salt blends that are in stock.

“We have magnesium and calcium chloride and other salt blends,” Gold said. “We’re in good shape with them.”

Gold said the other variations of salt are more expensive, but they work better in these extreme temperatures.

“It’s just one of the problems we face when we have a higher frequency of storms.”

While road departments throughout Washington and Greene counties have used a lot of salt, no problems were reported in getting additional supplies.

“We have contracts in place and we are getting salt as needed,” said Valerie Peterson, spokeswoman for state Department of Transportation District 12. “We have more than 40,000 tons on hand.”

At the Busy Beaver in Washington, manager Jim Smoke said customers are buying two or three bags at a time.

“We are in stock,” Smoke said. “But, I’ve been told that other establishments in the area are out of rock salt.”

Smoke said he has plenty of shakers and various size bags available. He doesn’t anticipate a problem getting more in stock.

Laurie Dean, general manager at Dean’s Hardware in Washington, said the store also has plenty of rock salt in stock.

“We’ve been selling a lot of it,” Dean said. “People are coming in and buying pallets.”

Dean said she doesn’t anticipate any trouble ordering more.

“We can get it right away,” she said.

Tom Rogers, owner of West Washington Hardware in Washington, is less confident about replenishing his stock. He’s hopeful he’ll get more 50-pound bags next week.

“I’m out of the 50-pound bags, and maybe have 30 bags left of the 25-pounders,” he said. “But it goes in spurts.”

Rogers said the scarcity of rock salt could pose a problem with this weekend’s weather forecast.

The National Weather Service is predicting about two to four inches of snow over the course of the weekend, with high temperatures in the mid-20s. More brutal cold is expected until Wednesday, when the temperature will finally rise into the mid-teens.

“People call in and ask for it on a daily basis,” Rogers said. “But they seem to understand when I tell them we don’t have it.”

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