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Village stretches salt supply as it waits for shipments

Published: Sunday, March 23, 2014 1:11 p.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE – The March 12 precipitation eclipsed the third snowiest winter in recorded Chicago-area history, and all the snowfall has taken its toll on regional and national salt supplies.

The Village of Downers Grove modified its salt-use plan during the last several weeks to preserve its supply as it waits for 1,354 tons of its original contract that still have not been delivered.

Village spokesman Doug Kozlowski said the salt rationing allowed the village to respond to the March 12 snow storm with a full response, salting every street, not just the major arteries that receive treatment during the modified operation.

“That was exactly what moving to the modified salt operation was designed to do,” he said. “It gave us the ability to use that emergency supply when it was really needed.”

The March 12 storm dumped about 3.6 inches of snow on O’Hare International Airport, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Jamie Enderlen.

About 79.1 inches of snow has fallen this season at the airport, moving past 1969-1970, when 77 inches fell.

In second place is 1977-78, when 82.3 inches fell, and in 1978-79, 89.7 inches fell. Record keeping began in 1884.

Romeoville, the nearest measuring station to Downers Grove, received 5.4 inches on the morning of March 12, bringing the seasonal total to 70.9 inches, according to Enderlen.

However, she said, historical seasonal records aren’t kept for that specific monitoring location.

Village Planner Stan Popovich said the village has received about 3,642.49 tons of salt from its supplier, Cargill, this season, and has between 100 and 200 tons left in supply.

He said frozen lakes and rivers, paired with the huge regional and national demand for salt have prevented Cargill from fulfilling the remaining, past-due 1,354 tons the village has on contract with the company.

“It’s been extremely challenging,” Popovich said. “You always want to have the materials, the resources available to do the job that you’re expected to do. I think we’ve managed it well.”

Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said, in addition to frozen waterways that stop barges carrying salt, railroads also run slower for safety reasons due to the cold and snow.

“And at times trucks were mired in the same snow as commuters,” Klein said in an email. “Demand was high everywhere, due to an unprecedented winter across the snowbelt.”

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