Harsh winter stretching salt supplies in central Indiana

Brad Land, Anderson's street commissioner

Central Indiana is preparing for another winter blast this weekend.

A winter weather advisory is in effect from 7:00 pm Friday to 7:00 am Saturday. Friday will be cold, with a high of 18 and sub-zero wind chills. Snow moves in overnight, with two to four inches falling by noon Saturday and another possible one to three inches Sunday morning (time frame is currently about 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, but that is subject to change.)

Cities across central Indiana are looking at depleted salt supplies, although the Indiana Department of Transportation says it's prepared.

"We have certainly used a sizeable portion of our stockpiles due to the near-record weather this season. There is a statewide increase in demand, but INDOT is not experiencing a shortage. INDOT has large salt storage facilities that hold thousands of tons of salt in locations throughout the state, which are filled before winter, and we receive regular deliveries throughout the season to maintain supply," said Nathan Riggs, INDOT.

Riggs added, "Because of the exceptional weather this month, there is an increase in demand for salt as local DPWs and county highways are placing orders to replenish their depleted stockpiles. Suppliers are certainly busy working to meet this demand, and deliveries are taking longer than they would during normal conditions. INDOT is prepared and maintains ample stockpiles to accommodate fluctuations in weather and market conditions."

In Anderson, their salt supplies are stretched to the limit. A new pile arrived at midnight Thursday, but the city will use it sparingly, knowing that Mother Nature may be getting ready to hit with two more weekend storms.

"Anderson is experiencing similar challenges as the rest of the region due to a road salt shortage. Suppliers have not kept up with the demand of the recent snow events and are extremely behind on their orders. The suppliers are also rationing the salt as they receive it prior to distribution. Anderson has been promised to take delivery of 500 tons of salt by noon on Saturday as of conversations today," said Pete Heuer, Anderson Chairman of the Board of Works.

Letha Collier is a go-getter when it comes to driving in snow, so she says she has no problem with the city possibly cutting back on salting secondary streets.

"The main streets, that's where you get the most traffic. Of course you have to get them first because of school buses and people have to go to work," Collier said.

But as central Indiana braces for more snow, it will mean breaking the budget even more.

"We want to be very cautious about how we use this salt," said Anderson Street Commissioner Brad Land.

Land will restrict how much, when and where his snow plow drivers will drop salt.

"We still try to salt down the emergency routes, around schools and, on Sunday, churches and that type of thing, as well," said Land.

Right now, snow plow drivers like Lamar Braxton are always on standby. He knows the salt they have now can be gone in no time.

Since money is tight, Land even plans to salvage a pile of damaged salt, which got wet after high winds blew away tarps. His goal is to ration the salt supply while keeping drivers like Diane Cravens safe on the road.

"I live out in the country, so it makes it hard for me to get around and be able to go somewhere," Cravens said.

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler tweeted Friday, "City and MSD crews heading to St. Joseph, Michigan over weekend to purchase 1,600 tons salt. Drive safe. Thank you to everyone!!"