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Winter storm onslaught draining town's supplies of road salt

Fairfield Citizen-News
Published 2:32 pm, Monday, February 17, 2014
  • The snow storms are starting to add up, and have Public Works officials keeping a close eye on the salt supply. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    The snow storms are starting to add up, and have Public Works officials keeping a close eye on the salt supply. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Another serious snowstorm could be like rubbing salt in a wound as the relentless series of winter storms has sapped the town's reserves to treat hazardous roads.

That's the assessment from town officials when the town's weary snow-plowing crews headed home midday Friday after clearing the latest snowfall that, so far for this season, has dumped upwards of 50 inches of snow on southwestern Connecticut.

In the latest significant snowstorm, the Department of Public Works crews started plowing at 5 a.m. Thursday and continued all day through to 7:30 p.m., before heading home for some shut eye. They were back on the job at 3 a.m. Friday, and continued working steadily until about noontime.

With more road cleanup required after Saturday's lighter snow, town officials are warily monitoring its supply of road salt.

Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said Fairfield is one of 22 municipalities in the state to request fresh salt supplies to treat roads from the state Department of Emergency Management and the Department of Transportation.

"We have about 350 tons of salt in our yard," Michelangelo said as of Friday. "Given that for a decent storm we use about 450 tons, it will not go far."

Though there was no classes in Fairfield schools on Thursday, Friday and Monday, teachers had to report Friday -- storm-delayed by two hours -- for a professional development day, and Michelangelo said that meant using more salt on school parking lots. "It wasn't a tremendous quantity, but every little amount dwindles the supplies."

Michelangelo said he doesn't doubt that the state will be able to get more salt, but added if the supplies are not close by, he's not sure how the new supplies would be delivered to towns in a timely fashion.

"We have been trying to secure salt through our normal supply chains" in New Haven, he said. "A barge of salt did arrive in New Haven earlier this week, and I think one of the logistical problems was getting it to the 169 municipalities plus the dozens of ConnDOT sites before the Thursday event."

Michelangelo said the 25 tons of road salt the town did get during the week enabled it "to limp along," and crews were judicious in applying salt during the snow Monday night and again Thursday.

"As long as we get daytime temperatures that rise above 32 degrees with some sun, it has not hurt us yet," he said. "If, hypothetically, Connecticut gets an ice storm the last week of February, the state may look a lot like Atlanta did last week."