Crews in Kentucky are hitting the roads tonight at midnight to be in full force and ahead of the storm. West Virginia Department of Transportation also keeps crews on standby, ready to work 12 hour shifts to clear roads. However, they're not using as much salt as you might think.
The heaviest use of salt is over, at least for now. Brent Walker, Director of Communications at West Virginia Department of Transportation, says this past Tuesday was the largest single use of salt they've had this season, using 16,000 tons. Kentucky Department of Highways District 9 used 3,800 tons over a three day span last week. Although arctic temperatures call for a new plan of attack.
Walker says salt is good until about 18 or 20 degrees, but then it doesn't have the moisture necessary to give the reaction. Calcium chloride can be used to spot treat the roads, but usually it's used to treat the salt that is used to treat the roads. Walker explains it's a brine solution they spray the salt with to give it that boost salt needs in colder temperatures.
Salt is in good supply. District 9 in Kentucky has 14,000 tons. West Virginia keeps 150,000 tons on hand statewide. Most states have contracts for a continuous supply in winter months.
Right now, plows are the main muscle on the road. Walker explains when temperatures are this low, they pull back on the salt simply because it doesn't do any good.
Plows only clear roads making them passable. Motorists are advised to avoid driving if at all possible. Walker says the expectation is that drivers will encounter some icy spots simply because crews don't have the ability to melt the snow and ice.
If you must travel, please slow down! Crews will also use abrasive materials like sand or cinders. Although this won't melt snow or ice, it will at least help provide traction.