Storms that ripped through the Midwest this week left trails of icy roads behind them, and central Kansas salt mines are struggling to keep up with the widespread demand for road salt.
Fortunately, Douglas County survived the freezing rain, sleet and snow without suffering from a salt shortage, said Frank Hempen, county public works director.
"We still have in excess of 200 tons of material on hand," he said. "We should be receiving an additional 250 tons by next Friday. Comparatively, we're in good condition."
The county purchased 800 tons of salt in October to prepare for winter. So far, around 150 tons to 175 tons have been mixed with sand and spread on county roads, Hempen said.
"With this type of weather, our usage is probably three times as high as if we had six to eight inches of snow," he said.
George Williams, Lawrence public works director, said the city was forced to borrow about 15 tons of salt from the county supply because increased consumption of road salt across the Midwest has slowed delivery. The city still has 300 tons of salt on order.
Hempen and Williams said much of the area's salt comes from Hutchinson Salt Co. in Hutchinson.
Max Liby, the company's mine manager, said the demand for road salt has skyrocketed since the ice storms hit.
"We have salt, but because of the road conditions, states and cities and counties have used far more than they usually do," he said. "We're loading about six 25-ton semis an hour for snow and ice control. Even at that speed, the lines get long. We had a seven-hour wait at one point."
He said trucks were making trips from all parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas to Hutchinson for the salt.
"We're loading trucks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to take care of this," he said.