The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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State News

February 8, 2014

Harsh winter prompts heavy W.Va. salt usage

CHARLESTON — Some West Virginia cities have already used twice as much salt as they typically use each year on icy roads, and the state has spent more than three-fourths of its annual snow-removal budget.

Charleston has used about 4,000 tons of salt so far this season, city Public Works Director Gary Taylor told The Daily Mail.

That’s roughly the same amount used in the last two years combined.

“With our hills here, we have to put salt down,” he said.

Officials in Dunbar and Nitro also report using twice the normal amount of salt.

The state Department of Transportation started the year with around 160,000 tons but has had to order more.

The state has used more than 236,000 tons of salt on the nearly 36,000 miles of highway it’s responsible for maintaining and has spent about $42 million of its $55 million snow removal budget.

“There’s such a high demand for salt right now,” transportation department spokeswoman Carrie Bly said. “About a dozen other states are in the same circumstances as we are.”

Salt usage has been highest in the Division of Highways’ District 6, which consists of Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler and Wetzel counties.

That district has used 31,524 tons of salt.

Usage might have been higher if not for the extremely cold temperatures this winter, Bly said, because salt becomes less effective as temperatures drop below 20 degrees.

Liz Sommerville, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston, said the average temperature for Charleston last month was 27.6 degrees — roughly seven degrees lower than the January average of 34.4 degrees.

Average minimum temperatures — the “low” for the day — in Charleston were about 10 degrees colder than usual in January.

The below-average temperatures and this year’s round of snowfall are also making their mark in the form of potholes forming on roads.

As precipitation falls, freezes and thaws, fractures in pavement can grow, creating potholes.

“We’ve got plenty,” Taylor said.  “It’s every street.”

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