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Kentucky's salt situation described as 'serious'

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - It's not a crisis, but the salt supply is so low in Kentucky that the state is now looking at what can be done to make it through the rest of the winter.

"Winter has been rather extended this time around," stated Michael Williams, the Snow and Ice program coordinator for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Salt supplies and road conditions are likely topics you're tired of hearing about, but before you dismiss this you should know that the levels are low and it might affect your drive.

"We're typically very aggressive in clearing snow and ice," described Chuck Wolfe, of the Transportation Cabinet.

However, that strategy may be curbed in approach with the salt supply levels getting lower and lower. The state starts with roughly 320,000 tons of salt each year. Wolfe said the KYTC will typically replenish the supply as the winter carries on, but this year the demand exceeds the supply.

"So far, this winter, we've already spread 300-thousand tons," he said, which is well over the average use of 200,000 to 250,000 tons.

Kentucky has an emergency stockpile of salt at the Mega Cavern in Louisville. Wolfe said it is a 60,000 ton stash. The state has already dipped into it, and it's now down to 26,000 tons. In all, the state has less than 150,000 tons on hand, much of that comes from the reserves. While that may sound like a lot, it's not.

"When you divide it among the 120 counties and the facilities that we have, that's a low amount," explained Williams.

Winter isn't over, either. WKYT's Chief Meteorologist Chris Bailey said February historically brings our biggest snowfall.

"We have to conserve what we have and be very smart in our use of it," answered Wolfe.

KYTC estimates the average use of salt from February 7th to the end of the ice and snow season, is around 80,000 tons. That's based on calculations over the last seven years. With just less than 150,000 on hand, running out is not an imminent threat but it is too close for comfort. Which is why the state is looking at the strategy to plow first and salt as necessary, if the weather allows it.

"We won't hesitate to use salt or any other materials if that's what weather conditions dictate," continued Wolfe, adding that a break in the weather would go a long way in making the supply last.

That break may be a while, as snow is expected this weekend and into the start of next week.


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