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More Snow Tuesday Will Strain Already Diminishing Road Salt Supplies

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Updated 02/04/13 – 11:08 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – With even more snow headed to the Chicago area on Tuesday, the continuous cleanup efforts have been creating problems for some towns and cities that are running low on road salt.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports plow drivers in the city and suburbs were loading up their trucks with salt Tuesday morning, ahead of a winter storm that could bring 4 to 8 inches to the area.

Since Chicago already has seen more than 52 inches of snow this winter – more than double the average for this time of year – the road salt supply has been greatly diminished in the city and suburbs.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has insisted Chicago will have enough road salt for the rest of the winter.

“We will always have the salt we need to do the job we need to do,” Emanuel said. “The city … has never come to a standstill, continues to operate, and our streets are plowed and passable, and everybody’s able – from business to residents to the commercial interests – to be able to operate.”

However, some suburbs already started cutting back on salting roads when they get snow, because of dwindling supplies. That’s a concern, because the spring thaw cycle often requires more salt for roads than the middle of winter.

It’s not just the amount of snow that’s causing a problem. Transportation delays from salt suppliers also have been an issue, with barges that deliver the salt getting stuck in icy rivers.

In Aurora, city crews already have used 13,500 tons of salt, about the same amount they used the entire winter of 2012-13. Naperville crews already used nearly four times what they used last year at this time. Oak Park and Elgin spread more than 75 percent of what they used all last winter, and far more than the typical winter at this point.

In west suburban Maywood, village officials have been plowing – but not salting – many local streets, because they’re down to about 500 tons of salt for more than six remaining weeks of winter.

Maywood Public Works Director John Banks said that’s not enough salt to get the town through a significant storm, so the village has been rationing its remaining road salt. The main east-west streets in Mawood will be plowed and salted after the snow stops, but there isn’t enough salt to hit side streets.

After the coming snow storm on Tuesday and Wednesday, Banks said Maywood likely won’t have much salt left, after already using more than 2,000 tons this winter, compared to less than 800 last winter.

“We’ve already more than doubled what we used last year,” he said.

For his village’s sake, Banks hopes the groundhog was wrong in its prediction of six more weeks of winter. Maywood has ordered more road salt, but supply trucks have been delayed in delivering salt, because of overwhelming demand throughout the Midwest.

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