Weather | Almost out of Road Salt, R.I. Waits

Article excerpt

PROVIDENCE - It has been said that Homer, the ancient Greek poet, referred to salt as a "divine substance."

And right now it would probably be difficult to find any highway chiefs in Rhode Island who would disagree.

With weeks of winter weather to go, the state and most of its municipalities are either out of or critically low on road salt, officials were reporting Thursday.

"Everyone is pretty much depleted ... no one is flush," Jamia McDonald, executive director of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, said. "The governor is monitoring this situation closely and we are talking to him every day."

While there is no quick solution to the problem, RIEMA is trying to help municipalities by taking an inventory of whatever salt cities and towns have on hand and seeing whether they can share with those in more dire need.

"The governor very much believes that we're all in this together," McDonald said. "And through this last storm this week it was impressive to see some of the municipalities work like a team."

McDonald and other state officials said that much of the state is pinning its hopes on a supply of Chilean salt that is en route to International Salt's Providence port on March 1.

The Pennsylvania-based salt company supplies the state Department of Transportation and a number of municipalities.

The City of Providence said it was out of road salt and relying solely on sand to give drivers some traction, while Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said his city had enough salt on hand for "one more storm."

The state DOT reported that it was down to between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of salt - the bare minimum that it would use in a storm.

Unfortunately, the salt is needed even without a storm, said Rose Amoros, spokeswoman for the state DOT.

The current weather pattern of daytime melting and nightly freezing is leaving ice on state highways and local roads and is requiring almost constant attention.

She said that DOT is trying to stretch out the salt it has on hand by "using it judiciously" - mixing it with sand and treating only critical areas such as Route 95, major intersections and very winding state roads. …