The Highland County Engineer’s Office has also used an above-average amount of road salt this winter season, about 2,500 tons, according to county engineer Chris Fauber. He said the county typically uses around 2,000 tons of salt for the entire year and it expects to blow past that this season.
The county is currently waiting on more road salt to be delivered. Fauber estimated Highland County still has 800 to 1,000 tons of road salt remaining and 2,200 to be delivered by Morton Salt, priced at $66.95 a ton. That price changes each year, and usually goes up if the previous year was a bad winter when areas want to replenish salt barns, and down if it was mild, Fauber said.
The trucks in Highland County treat county roads only, but helps the township trustees and local villages.
The county has 12 road treatment routes with trucks on each route at the same time. Fauber said it can be a three-hour trip if the trucks don’t need to plow, but if they need to plow and salt, it can take six to seven hours to completely cover the county.
“The way our county’s set up, it kinda looks like a pinwheel is the way our routes work,” Fauber said. “So, we try to start from the center and work our way out from Hillsboro.”
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Brianne Abbott said the city currently has used 300 tons of salt and 600 tons of grit, which is small rock mixed with the salt. The city has about 500 tons of salt remaining. It had prepared to use around 800 tons, but she said it is difficult to predict because each winter is different.
According to Gary Lewis, Greenfield public service director, the village has used 90 tons of road salt this winter season, and still has 20 tons available to use.
The village has two major state routes that are also the main roads of travel, and because it is a village, ODOT plows and salts the state routes in the Greenfield village limits.
“That reduces the amount of salt that we need to buy by quite a bit,” Lewis said. “Also, at the beginning of the season, we had approximately 25 tons left over from the 2018-19 winter season. We ordered 90 tons for 2019-20 and used very little of it. So, we started with approximately 115 tons for the 2020-21 season. We ordered an additional 75 tons for this year. We have enough salt on hand to get us through a couple weeks and the additional 75 tons will be ready for the 2021-22 season. We’re in pretty good shape.”
Fauber also detailed how road salt is key to keeping the roads safe. It helps melt the snow, which allows the trucks to plow it off. The county uses a one to one mix, using half grit and half salt. The salt helps melt the snow and the grit leaves traction for drivers, he said.
Deciding how much salt to use for each storm is dependent on if it’s snow, or if there will be ice as well.
“We have our trucks calibrated for anywhere from like 600 pounds a mile all the way up to 1,200 pounds a mile,” Fauber said. “Based on that type of storm, if there’s more ice anticipated, we might bump up the usage to put more salt down per mile. If it’s just a typical snow that we’re plowing both ways and then gritting, we’ll probably try to run in that 800 to 1,000 pounds.”
Fauber stressed that the salt helps get roads clear quicker. However, two reasons it is difficult to get them clear at times are darkness and wind. Even when it is 20 degrees, Fauber said, the sun can be helpful because it heats the asphalt. The wind can cause drifting snow, meaning even a small amount of snow can pile up in flatter areas, which Fauber said happened in the northwest part of Highland County.
Matt Burning, press secretary at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), added that people need to use extra caution when driving near plow trucks. He said that nine plow trucks have been hit in the last couple of weeks when eight were hit all last year.
Fauber also said that people plowing roads sometimes work around the clock.
“You know, it’s a very tiring job at times and sometimes not appreciated,” he said. “But I appreciate their efforts this winter and all the time actually. We just ask people to be patient, slow down and give the snowplow a little room to work.”
The state of Ohio has used 603,160 tons this winter season, according to Burning.
He also said that while the state uses as much salt as it needs, finding out how it compares to previous years is done by looking at the average used, which is 478,297 tons annually, going back to 2014.
“I mean, if you look back to 2014, we’ve really only had three years that are pacing ahead of that average and that was ‘15, ‘18 and ‘19,” Burning said. “Last year, obviously, was a very mild winter. So were the winters in ‘16 and ‘17. So, you know, we’ve been spoiled the last couple of winters but certainly, we’re making up for it now.”
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.