Mild winters leave C-U with plenty of road salt

Mild winters leave C-U with plenty of road salt

CHAMPAIGN — With the first measurable snowfall yet to hit the area, local towns say they should have plenty of salt to treat roadways this winter.

"The way this winter is going we'll have plenty of salt," said Tracy Wingler, maintenance supervisor for the Champaign County highway department.

The county has about 3,500 tons of salt in its dome and another 2,000 tons in reserve, Wingler said.

During an average year, the county might use between 2,000 and 3,000 tons, but last year was particularly mild, leaving the area with plenty of salt for this year.

"Last year, we hardly used any," Wingler said.

The city of Champaign typically uses about 3,500 tons of salt on its roads and has about 4,200 tons on hand. It also has a locked-in order for an additional 3,200 tons, according to Ernesto Salinas, operations manager for Champaign's public works department.

"We have more than enough salt this year, mostly due to the mild winters we've had," Salinas said.

The most salt the city ever used was during the 2013-14 winter, when Champaign used 7,000 tons.

In Urbana, the city has 1,344 tons of salt on hand, along with 1,200 to 1,400 tons it plans to purchase, according to John Collins, operations manager for Urbana's public works department.

During a typical winter, Urbana might use 1,200 to 1,500 tons of salt, Collins said.

Urbana also has about 3,400 gallons of calcium chloride.

"That's for when it gets extremely cold, so the salt works at lower temperatures," Collins said. "It's pretty corrosive, so we don't like to use it much."

Right now, Urbana is preparing its equipment and training its staff as it waits for winter to arrive.

"It's almost December, and it's 60 degrees," Collins said. "Sooner or later, winter is going to be here."

Chuck Schaffer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said there's no snow forecast anytime soon.

"There's really nothing coming soon that we have in the forecast, although the weather will turn colder starting around the middle of next week," he said. "There's a chance in there that we could see our first measurable snowfall coming up in the second or third week of December."

This would be later than usual, but not by too much, Schaffer said.

The first snowfall is "usually in very late November or early December," he said. "It's fairly typical that we would not have seen a measurable snowfall at this point in the season."