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Salt use goes up as snow piles up

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A little more than a month ago, Dan Dinges, like other public works professionals in local road departments, was wondering what he was going to do with the surplus of salt sitting in Geneva’s public works facility.

But after almost six weeks of snow and ice, Dinges, the city of Geneva’s public works director, said that potential problem has taken care of itself.

“Surprisingly, we’re pretty much on track to having a normal winter now,” Dinges said. “Even if almost all of it has come in the last month or so.”

Through January, Kane County and the rest of northern Illinois had experienced one of the least snowy winters in recorded history.

In those two months, the Tri-Cities area had recorded only about 2 inches of snow, 10 percent to 15 percent of normal snowfall.

But from mid-February to mid-March, sustained winter temperatures have produced a surprising amount of snow, said Gilbert Sebenste, meteorologist at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Sebenste noted that the region has received a little more than 30 inches of snow for the winter, just slightly less than the normal seasonal total of 35 inches.

“We caught up in March, and fast,” Sebenste said. “When you consider how little we had received going into February, that’s really incredible.”

When rainfall is included, Sebenste said the region has received about 8 inches of liquid precipitation this winter, almost 3 inches above normal for the season.

Bill Edwards, maintenance director at the Kane County Division of Transportation, said his crews normally respond to about 45 snow and ice events in a typical winter.

This winter, he said, they’ve responded to 35 events. And about three-quarters of those events have come since the beginning of February.

Edwards also noted that the county has, to date, used about 9,800 tons of salt to de-ice roads, compared to about 12,000 tons in an average winter.

Dinges noted that neither he nor other road superintendents ever believed the region would escape a winter without at least a few heavy snowfalls.

“We knew it wouldn’t last,” Dinges said. “But now it can stop snowing, anytime.”

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