Chesterton Tribune



The longest winter: Road salt supplies running low in Duneland

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Patience and good humor were not the only things in short supply this morning, as Dunelanders woke yet again to white and plenty of it.

Local street, public works, and highway departments are scraping the bottom of their road salt barrels, with not much in the way of a contingency plan beyond conservation.

Chesterton Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg expressed his concern in particular about the availability of salt later in the season, in late February and early March, when ice storms are more likely.

Were conserving the salt that we have, Schnadenberg said. Only the main roads will get it. The subdivisions probably wont get any at this point. Were waiting to see if we get a delivery.

The Porter County Highway Department, meanwhile, had a supply today of 100 tons in Valparaiso and another 25 tons in Chesterton. But that's pretty much going to have to last the rest of the season, Deputy Superintendent David James told the Chesterton Tribune.

Unless, that is, the county's willing to get gouged in the open market. This season the county paid $48.84 per ton, Cargill's low bid, purchased through the state. But salt-strapped municipalities are now looking at prices of $150 to $200 per ton, James said.

The fault lies with Cargill, James maintained, which in apparent anticipation of another mild winter bid low, got the states contract, and then was unprepared for the seasons sheer awfulness. Cargill dropped the ball, he said.

James, for his part, said that he was fully expecting a brutal winter, as forecast way back in October by a NOAA meteorologist of his acquaintance. The tip-off was a savage summer in Siberia, lots of snow, which jet-streamed into Canada and hung a right at Minnesota.

James said that his NOAA guy has never, to his knowledge, been wrong. I want to rub his belly and buy a lottery ticket, he joked.

The Roads this Morning

This latest snow event appears to have snuck up on Duneland. Tuesday nights flurries weren't all that heavy, Schnadenberg said, and his plow drivers knocked off around 1 a.m., after hitting the streets six hours earlier. But at 3 a.m. the system got a second wind. It was snowing so hard we had a hard time keeping up. And it was blowing a lot. The snow was light and visibility real poor, so the trucks had to go slow.

Initially at 5:31 a.m. the Duneland School Corporation announced a two-hour delay. Less than two hours later at 7:19 a.m. Superintendent Monte Moffett threw in the towel and just canceled classes altogether.

Its the sixth school closure of the winter and it comes not even 48 hours after the Duneland School Board announced three make-up days, with two other missed days waived by the Indiana Department of Education.

At 8 a.m. there were no road closures in unincorporated Porter County, James said. But there is a lot of drifting and here and there an abandoned vehicle. James put total snowfall at six inches.



Posted 2/5/2014