Snow, salt and floods

The next few days of winter weather may continue to try Trumbull County residents – three to five inches of snow are anticipated in the first half of the week and departments are still short on road salt. Compounding the problem, a warming trend predicted for later in the week will be melting snow and is expected to produce flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

The first hurdle to pass will be the shortage in road salt. The Ohio Department of Transportation had hoped to replenish supplies of the snow-melting mix, but its bid for 150,000 tons didn’t see any takers over the past week and expired on Friday.

Most of Trumbull County is covered by the Engineer’s Office since it opted in to a partnership program. Highway Superintendent Gregg Alberini Sr. said at the beginning of the month that their supplies were holding steady and he expected to make it through the rest of the winter season without issue.

Areas that decided to buy salt independently, particularly Cortland and Lordstown, were struggling at the start of the month, before the last large winter storm dropped on the Valley. Cortland’s strategy was to concentrate salt use on only the main arteries of the city, while Lordstown was holding out for another shipment to arrive.

It is not known whether either department received more salt over the past two weeks. Delays in the delivery of previously ordered road salt were attributed to “an unprecedented winter weather season,” according to Morton Salt, the main supplier for northeast Ohio entities.

The lack of bids for ODOT’s offer is a sign that the companies are stretched thin, said department spokesman Steve Faulkner. Their plan was to stockpile salt at seven locations around the state for communities that were running low and then have them replace the salt when their own supplies were replenished.

Now the transportation department said it will explore other options.

“We’re looking at some alternatives of how we could pursue some additional salt and how we could get some more into Ohio,” Faulkner said. “I’m not sure exactly how that’s going to play out. We should have more information next week.”

The agency has been helping smaller communities by providing salt for individual storms.

There are not a lot of communities in dire need of salt, Faulkner said, even though many have used more salt than usual.

Cincinnati officials said Saturday that some crews have been told to use a salt-sand mixture over the weekend to conserve salt supplies because of its dwindling supply.

Licking County in central Ohio was close to a dangerously low level of salt before receiving more this past week, said Bill Lozier, the county engineer.

The state transportation department is not in danger of running out of salt, Faulkner said. The agency has ordered another 510,000 tons and can buy only 40,000 tons more under its existing contracts.

Department director Jerry Wray said the agency could end up using 1 million tons of salt for the first time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.