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Road salt less effective during extreme cold, UDOT says

By Mike Anderson | Posted - Dec. 4, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — UDOT crews are working hard to keep the roads clear after a winter storm Tuesday. However, unseasonably cold temperatures are making the job challenging and time consuming.

"The biggest challenge that we've had with this storm is just how cold it's been," said UDOT Spokesman John Gleason. "This is a storm that you would typically see a little bit later on in the season."

Plow drivers were expected to cover and re-cover areas of the road with salt during shifts Wednesday night, in an effort to prevent black ice. While road salt plays a major role in melting the snow, there's only so much it can do.

"When a storm comes in and it's this cold, salt is typically less-effective." Gleason said.

UDOT buys their salt from a handful of suppliers. Broken Arrow, based in Tooele County, often sells them tens of thousands of tons. Like other companies, they enhance their salt with an antifreeze solution which drops the water's freezing temperature.

"It must take it down to zero," said Broken Arrow Senior Vice President Sid Hullinger.

Broken Arrow also produces a brown-colored high-performance salt.

"[The color] gives it a lot more solar power, and starts the melting faster," Hullinger said.

High-performance salts are also around 20 percent more expensive which limits their use. Gleason said while crews will put in more hours and use more salt, it's almost impossible to keep ahead of the below-freezing temperatures.

"That's going to create some black ice situations," Gleason said. "People need to slow down, and really take caution."

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