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Region's Low Salt Stores Stretched With Higher Temps

Marina Weis
90.5 WESA

UPDATE: 1:19 p.m.

When Pittsburgh City Council gathered Tuesday it offered a wide range of opinions on how the Public Works Department handled the most recent storm.  Councilwoman Darlene Harris came down on the critical side.

“This morning on the way to work, I came down what you would call an emergency route, to find a bus sideways on the street, cars stuck everywhere sideways, with a salt truck sitting there with only sand on it,” said Harris.

The city went into the storm with very low salt stores and tried to stretch that salt by adding sand and other non-skid material into the mix.  The city also only used salt on intersections, hills, curves and school zones.

Councilman Bruce Kraus had nothing but praise.

“I cannot imagine being out there the last 30 days and dealing with what they have had to deal with. So, from all of us, and I know we share this collectively, a very sincere heartfelt thank you to public works employees across the board,” said Kraus

When it was her turn to chime in on the subject Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith turned her attention back onto the council members.

“I think it’s probably very difficult for our public works crews who are out on the streets every day, working 12-hour shifts or more, and hearing people complain. But I do also understand that people are concerned about the conditions of the roads.”

The city was expecting to get more salt Tuesday.  Crews continued to work on slick spots but the rising temperatures have helped with driving conditions throughout the region. 

Those temperatures could slip back below freezing in some areas tonight, which could create icy conditions in some areas.  State Farm Insurance spokesperson Dave Phillips warns motorists to watch out for “black ice,” which is ice on roads that is either impossible to see or looks like water rather than ice.

UPDATE: 8:45 a.m.

Pittsburgh Public Schools have canceled classes for the day in reaction to slick conditions on city streets.  Motorists are reporting areas of "black ice" in the city and deep slush in the North Hills.

Original Post:

Coming into last night’s snowstorm, most counties and municipalities in southwestern Pennsylvania were on strict road salt rations, giving concern to police and morning commuters.

But as temperatures rose above freezing overnight, some of the snow turned to rain.

“Down to the south it is more rain to the snow mix and up north it’s more snow,” said Allegheny County Public Works Director Steve Johnson.

Johnson’s crews hit the 378 miles of roads under their jurisdiction around midnight. Drivers were plowing everywhere and slating only the intersections, curves and hills. Johnson said the decision as to which areas to salt comes mostly from experience, but he also gets calls from local police alerting the drivers to slick spots.

The city of Pittsburgh announced Monday that it was very low on salt and that the Public Works Department would be sending out trucks with a mix of salt, sand and other non-skid material.

The slightly warmer-than-expected temperatures resulted in mostly slushy streets in the city. More salt is expected to be delivered to Pittsburgh’s Public Works Department Tuesday, and according to the National Weather Service, temperatures are expected to rise into the mid-30’s.

The slushy roads prompted the Pittsburgh Public School District to institute a two-hour delay. Several other school districts in the area followed suit. 

State roads were reported to be in good condition however; the HOV lanes remained closed during the morning commute to allow crews to focus on the main roads.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County was unable to salt its “park and ride” lots and warned user to beware.  Otherwise, PAT reported no major delays.

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