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Salt scarcity prompts talk of alternatives for next winter

Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star - Murrysville road crews were kept busy Tuesday plowing and clearing the communities roads after the over night snow fall.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star</em></div>  Murrysville road crews were kept busy Tuesday plowing and clearing the communities roads after the over night snow fall.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star - The salt dome at the Murrysville Public Works site was down to the very last of its supply on Tuesday. Following the Monday night snow fall, roads crews were busy Tuesday morning plowing and clearing the communities roads using what remaining supply of salt and anti-skid material they had left.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lillian DeDomenic | For The Murrysville Star</em></div>  The salt dome at the Murrysville Public Works site was down to the very last of its supply on Tuesday. Following the Monday night snow fall, roads crews were busy Tuesday morning plowing and clearing the communities roads using what remaining supply of salt and anti-skid material they had left.

On-street parking, shoveling snow onto roadways can be issues

Residents can help road crews by following local ordinances. Officials in Murrysville and Export noted that shoveling snow into the streets is against municipal ordinances. Snow should be shoveled into a yard, not into the roads for the plows to move, Murrysville public works director Bob Bell said.

“That's a no-no,” Bell said. “But it seems to be slowing down (in recent weeks).”

Delmont public works employee Bill Heaps asks residents to stop parking on borough streets during storms, which makes it difficult for plows to maneuver. Delmont officials are considering creating an ordinance to stop those with off-street parking from leaving vehicles parked along streets during snow storms.

“People have driveways but aren't using them,” Heaps said. “The snow piles up, they don't move, and when you hit it with the plow truck, it's like hitting an iceberg.”

Borough solicitor Dan Hewitt called this winter “a peculiar and unusual year” and said that other communities have enacted regulations that make on-street parking illegal.

By Daveen Rae Kurutz
Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, 2:33 p.m.
 

Murrysville public works needs a new back-up plan.

Road salt levels have dwindled to next to nothing in Murrysville, with officials unable to get much more material delivered, public works director Bob Bell.

“This is the worst I've ever seen it,” Bell said. “We'd get a little low, but we've never been unable to get material.”

On Monday, the municipality was down to its final 150 tons of a mixture of salt and “anti-skid” material – a mixture that was heavily relying on “anti-skid,” Bell said.

That didn't bode well for Monday night, when Murrysville officials recommended that residents stay off the roads as much as possible until Tuesday afternoon.

A series of storms dropped 3.3 inches of snow and sleet on the region Monday night and Tuesday morning, causing Franklin Regional to cancel classes for the fifth time this year.

“It was a pretty dynamic little system,” said Mike Kennedy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Moon. “It was a mixed bag of precipitation that had a good impact, even when it wasn't snow.”

Murrysville's problem isn't unique. Across the region, municipalities have been low on salt, causing travel restrictions in Hempfield and Unity. In Penn Township, officials said they were down to their last bit on Monday.

Like Bell, employees of neighboring road crews have been holding their breath, hoping that backlogged salt orders would be filled.

Bell said he's behind by nearly 1,000 tons of salt — each shipment he orders either doesn't come in or is filled at a drastically lower level than what he requested.

He's been meeting with Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison to develop a new plan for next year, possibly joining another consortium to have back-up salt supplies.

One saving grace for the municipality has been that it started the year with a full salt shed.

During each of the past two winters, local municipalities have been overstocked on salt because of fewer storms.

When it comes to snow, it's either feast or famine, Bell said — and this year, it's been a feast, which has created a salt famine.

The National Weather Service isn't forecasting additional snow until this weekend, which gives Bell and road crews across the region a chance to replenish some of their salt supplies — if companies like American Rock Salt are able to deliver. But given the way things have been going, Bell warns residents that Murrysville roads aren't going to be what they're used to.

We're in very serious conservation mode,” Bell said. “Residents are going to see white roads out there.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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