Low-salt winter driven by wet winds
By Elizabeth Perry
Unless you happen to live under a bag of salt or one of McKees Rocks’ famed salt boxes you know the need to shovel your walk and/or driveway has been practically non-existent this winter season.
Here’s hoping this article doesn’t jinx us. I rather enjoy not having to haul out the shovel, boots, hat, gloves and heavy coat in order to dig out from under a snowstorm.
Because of the uncharacteristic weather, salt use on the municipal/public works side of things has of course been light, too.
“We’ve ordered about 15,000 tons so far this year,” Robinson Township Manager Frank Piccolino said.
That outlay is not even half Robinson’s budget since the weather has been unseasonably warm, Piccolino said.
Neville Township Manager Jeanne Creese said Neville Island’s usage of salt was also way below average this year.
Jenna Lake, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said this winter has definitely been warmer and there has been significantly less snow than expected.
“We’re 15 inches below normal. Typically we normally would have 29 inches total, but we’ve only seen 14 and a half,” Lake said on Feb. 13.
An Eastern-Pacific weather pattern called La Nina has experienced an uncharacteristic third dip this year, Lake said. La Nina causes trade winds to gain strength, according to the National Ocean Service, which often causes droughts in Southern states and pushes warmer, wetter weather toward our region.
“We order salt supply through COSTARS Program,” said McKees Rocks Borough Manager LeeAnn Wozniak.
COSTARS is a state-wide program that enables public entities like local governments or school districts to get items at a discount through collective purchasing power. This year, Stowe and Kennedy townships also subscribed through COSTARS, and the provider was American Rock Salt Company.
In Allegheny County, the average cost of salt is $77.88 per ton through COSTARS, according to representative Troy Thompson. Last year, the average cost in the state was $65.70 a ton.
Ingram Borough and Neville Island went through the South Hills Area Council of Governments to purchase salt. The vendor this year is Cargill.
Administrative Assistant with SHACOG, Susan Dawson, said the current price for salt is $86.71 per ton.
In 2021 it was $80.25 per ton and at the end of 2022, the cost fell at $83.69 per ton. Ingram Secretary-Treasurer Debbie Stecko said the borough used less salt this year than last, but reminded March is always iffy weather-wise.
Crafton and Coraopolis purchased salt through the Char-West Council of Governments and the supplier was also Cargill.
Assistant Manager Doug Sample said during a typical winter, Crafton spreads about 500 tons of salt, but the borough has used less this year.
However, Sample said that could change rapidly with a shift in the weather.
“Fingers crossed for an early spring,” Sample said.