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Mon Valley officials optimistic salt supplies will last

| Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 5:26 a.m.
McKeesport public works equipment operator Mark Husok digs into some of the 125 tons of salt that remained as of early Tuesday in a salt bin that can hold 750 tons. At that time the city anticipated an additional 100 tons from independent haulers and 250 from city contractor Cargill.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Trib Total Media
McKeesport public works equipment operator Mark Husok digs into some of the 125 tons of salt that remained as of early Tuesday in a salt bin that can hold 750 tons. At that time the city anticipated an additional 100 tons from independent haulers and 250 from city contractor Cargill.

Communities again turned to their salt bins as winter weather — and even some flooding — threatened the Mon-Yough area.

“There is enough for one pass through the city,” McKeesport Public Works Director Steve Kondrosky said Tuesday as he viewed 125 tons sitting in a storage building that can house 750. “That's the main streets and some of the sides.”

Kondrosky was expecting by Tuesday afternoon a shipment of approximately 100 tons purchased through independent truckers from PennDOT's storage bins in Center, Beaver County.

“In the district, we have approximately 21,000 tons of salt on the ground,” said Steve Cowan, spokesman for PennDOT District 11, which covers Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties. “Approximately 9,000 tons is in Allegheny County. The district has open orders of approximately 11,000 tons, with 6,000 of that dedicated to Allegheny County.”

PennDOT has salt to spare for municipalities such as McKeesport.

“District 11 has used approximately 76,286 tons of salt this winter,” Cowan said. “Last winter we used a total of 99,411. So, barring an extremely snowy March, the district should use less salt.”

There's been more snow east of the Allegheny County line this winter but PennDOT there reports “sufficient supply” on hand.

“Our assistant district executive for maintenance Ron Clark said we have enough material on hand to handle 10 to 12 events,” said Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for Uniontown-based PennDOT District 12 covering Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties.

Back in McKeesport, Kondrosky said, “We have 250 tons coming from Cargill,” the contractor supplying salt through the South Hills Area Council of Governments purchasing alliance.

“We've used 5,000 tons so far,” Kondrosky said. “Normally 3,000 keeps us.”

After the city bought 140 percent of what it anticipated, the price from Cargill rose to $102.92 a ton. The city is paying the independent truckers what they are paying PennDOT for the salt.

As salt was being picked up for McKeesport, an ice storm fell on Beaver County. In McKeesport and vicinity, an early round of sleet gave way to rain early in the afternoon, measuring more than half an inch at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin by early evening.

AccuWeather forecast temperatures in the upper 40s through early Wednesday, when a sudden drop to the upper 30s was to be followed by a slow slide to the freezing mark by early evening and into the teens by dawn Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday afternoon for a storm system that could bring 6 inches of snow to the Pittsburgh area.

In addition, it issued a flood warning for the Monongahela River near Elizabeth through 1 a.m. Friday. Flood stage at Elizabeth is 20 feet; 12.8 feet was measured there at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday.

National Weather Service forecasters in Pittsburgh predict a crest near 21.2 feet by Thursday morning, just under where, across the river in West Elizabeth, basements will begin to flood in the block bounded by First and Water streets.

The river is forecast to fall below flood stage by Thursday evening.

Across the Mon from McKeesport there were 80 tons of salt in storage in Duquesne's bin.

“We will be expecting another 200 tons for the rest of the season,” city manager Frank Piccolino III said. “We ordered 160 tons this week.”

Councilman William Pricener said Tuesday that Wilmerding is awaiting salt from Cargill, and does have some in reserve.

Borough Secretary Joe Hartzell said Wilmerding is in good shape with salt, even with one order of between 20 to 25 tons being a week late.

Wilmerding ordered between 40 and 50 additional tons of salt to be delivered sometime this month. Hartzell said the borough borrowed some salt from East McKeesport and Wall earlier this year.

Allegheny County spokeswoman Amie Downs said 1,700 tons were on hand for county-maintained roads while another 2,200 tons were on reserve at Blawnox and 2,500 tons were being shipped.

“We believe that our present supply, reserve and what is being delivered should be enough to last the season,” Downs said.

AccuWeather predicts a low of 1 around 8 a.m. Thursday.

Skies are expected to clear by Friday and temperatures are forecast to rise to 25 Friday and 39 Saturday, then into the 50s Tuesday through March 15 with 60 possible for Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade March 14.

How do area officials rate this winter?

“Every season brings its own challenges,” said PennDOT's Ofsanik, who noted the slow start to winter, then a stretch where “it's been a little more challenging.”

In Duquesne, Piccolino said, “The public works crew believes this was a better winter than last year.”

“I think last year was worse in respects to snow, but the cold weather this year seems to have caused more ice conditions,” Downs said.

Staff Writer Michael DiVittorio contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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