Snowy, icy weather spawns road salt shortage on Long Island

Department of Transportation trucks plow along the eastbound Department of Transportation trucks plow along the eastbound Long Island Expressway between exits 58 and 59 in Islandia on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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This winter's prodigious snowfall and frigid temperatures have created a critical road salt shortage on Long Island, prompting the state to bring in 400 tons to help communities battle Wednesday's snowstorm.

Even with the assistance, the Town of Smithtown plans to stretch its "very, very low" salt supply by adding a lot more sand to the mix, said highway superintendent Glenn Jorgensen.

Typically, the ice-fighting mixture applied to roads is 75 percent salt and 25 percent sand. He's reversing that ratio until the town lays in more supplies, he said.

"We're just going to have to use it very sparingly," he said of the dwindling salt stockpile.

Tuesday, the Babylon Town board authorized an emergency purchase of salt from a second supplier, said Kevin Bonner, a town spokesman. He said the regular source, Atlantic Salt Co. based in Staten Island, can't supply enough.

"As is the case with most other LI municipalities, we are running a bit low for this time of year," Bonner said.

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Smithtown and the towns of Brookhaven, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay are among the communities requesting state assistance.

"Safety is our No. 1 priority, and that is why the state is stepping in today to help towns on Long Island replenish their salt supplies as they prepare for their latest winter storm, which will likely bring freezing rain and ice," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

The salt will be delivered to Nassau and Suffolk counties and then distributed to towns and villages by each county's emergency services office, state officials said.

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The use of salt on state roads on Long Island has skyrocketed this winter, according to Eileen Peters, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

From Oct. 1, 2013, to Jan. 9, the state used 27,000 tons of salt. During the same period in 2012-13, 4,700 tons of salt were needed, Peters said.

Smithtown is slated to receive 30 tons from the state and although the additional salt helps, Jorgensen called it a "drop in the bucket."

"When I order salt, I order 700 to 800 tons at a clip," he said.

Despite getting a delivery of 500 tons of salt from its supplier Tuesday and another 500 tons expected Wednesday, Brookhaven also requested help from the state, said Frank Petrignani, a spokesman for the town highway department.

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Brookhaven, which has the most roads of any Long Island town, expects to receive 50 tons from the state.

North Hempstead Tuesday ordered 6,000 tons from its supplier, said Ryan Mulholland, a town spokesman. "If there is another storm, we're going to need more salt," he said.

In Southampton, there is enough salt to make it through the next 24 hours, said Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

"We have what we need to get through this storm tonight and tomorrow. Depending on what that one does, we're going to re-evaluate again," she said.

With Nicholas Spangler

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